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Rosebuds: Talking to kids about tragedy

By: Michelle Carl, Managing Editor
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News of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut this morning is causing everyone heartache, especially parents. But how do you explain this kind of senseless violence to your children?

Terry Morgan with Gold Country Chaplaincy offers these tips for talking to your kids about this tragedy.

“Children tend to be very tuned in to the reactions and emotions of their parents and other adults in their lives,” Morgan said. “Our response to this shooting will have an influence on them.”

Maintain a routine. “A child’s attention span tends to be shorter the younger they are. When their normal routine is not interrupted, they will recover from bad news much more quickly.”

Be honest. “Remember that children have vivid imaginations and most often they will imagine something far worse than reality when we don’t tell them the truth. We need to offer them enough information to satisfy their curiosity without being overly graphic or dramatic.”

Provide emotional support. “Grieving children will most often grieve in spurts.  They may be visibly upset for a few moments to a few minutes, but then they will want to run off and play. Later they may become emotional again, and need comforting for a short time, only to return to play again.”

Avoid too much TV. “Especially while this story seems to be on every channel.  Don’t let them watch or listen to too much news about the event.”

It won’t happen to you. “Be sure and let children know that law enforcement is doing everything they can to keep them safe. Such an event as what happened today, as horrible as it was, it is very rare. This is not something that happens very often, and is not likely to happen again anytime soon. And there is almost no chance such a thing will ever happen to them.”

Children are pretty resilient, Morgan said, so expect them to “spring back” more quickly than you expect. But if they don’t, talk to their doctor and seek help.

Michelle Carl is the editor of the Roseville Press Tribune and Wesley's mom. Rosebuds, a column about parenting in Roseville, appears on Mondays.