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Comforting Your Kids After Mass Shootings

12:24 PM, Sep 04, 2018

Lives were ended too soon on Sunday, Aug. 26. Another mass shooting took place, this time it was at an eSports tournament in Jacksonville, Florida.

Nine people were injured and three people were killed, including the gunman. These traumatic stories brings parents to tears as they think about their children becoming losing their innocence and possibly becoming a victim in the next Florida mass shooting .

“Certainly children know about these things and it becomes a concern,” Dr. Abbe Finn said, who is a faculty member at Florida Gulf Coast University’s counseling program that provides mental health services . “They want to know they are safe when they go places and they want to feel safe in all the environments that they go.”

How Do I Talk to My Kids About Mass Shootings?

After any traumatic event, Dr. Finn suggests that it’s important to first listen to your child’s concerns and address their issues directly.

Talking to a teen about mass shootings - Photo by Marco W. on Unsplash “Answer the questions they are asking,” she said, “and not the questions you think they are asking.”

Each conversation will be different depending on the age group. Take teenagers, for example. They might have been following the tragic news on the Internet, leading them to feel overwhelmed with all the information and misinformation they encounter.

Dr. Finn said this is the time you ask your teenager what they think about the traumatic event. Then you can follow up with a solution-based discussion. Ask him or her “how can we make this a better world and what can we do to help?”

If you have younger children, drawing pictures or describing their feelings through arts and crafts is known to be effective. Dr. Finn also suggests asking them, “what are the things that make you happy? Where do you feel safe?”

Tips on Mass Shooting Conversations With Kids

Dr. David Schonfeld, director at the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, is an expert on having difficult conversations with children.

Talk with your son or daughter about mass shootings - Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash Dr. Schonfeld recommends patience, as the thoughts of the child may be unorganized and lengthy. To begin, start by asking your child what he or she has already heard. Pay close attention to concerns expressed.

The parent should listen for misinformation, misconceptions and any underlying fears. If the child expresses worries, sadness or fears, tell him or her what adults are doing to keep them safe.

To provide false reassurance or dismiss their concerns is a mistake. Instead, help the child identify strategies to cope with difficult feelings.

Minimizing your child’s exposure to media is important. Media can include television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the Internet and social media. If the young person does watch news that is covering mass shootings, consider recording, screening and watching the news with them.

The aftermath of a crisis, such as a Florida mass shooting, is a good time to disconnect from all media and sit down together and talk as a family.

When having these conversations as a family, Dr. Schonfeld recommends sharing your feelings about the shooting. But he cautions against having these conversations if you feel overwhelmed. Instead, speak with other adults first for support. They can often offer comfort and good ideas.

When you feel ready, letting the child known that sad, worried and angry feelings is a healthy reaction. It is important to know what their authentic self feels. Use that time to talk to your child about other troubling feelings your child might have.

A mistake that is avoidable is to provide a reason or justification for a crime committed by another person. It is okay to tell your child that you don’t know why at this time such a crime was committed, Dr. Schonfeld said. Don’t feel obligated to give a reason for what happened.

Additional reporting by Tianna Jenkins