When the news gets bad and your children can’t avoid it, it’s best to talk with them.
The rise of childhood stress and anxiety during the past two years with COVID-19, coupled with incidents such as the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, it’s understandable your child may feel anxious nervous or afraid. It’s particularly concerning because it is so close in timing to the mass grocery store shooting earlier that same month.
As disturbing as it is to address, parents should try to respond honestly but with a level head, according to Tammy Walker, a nurse practitioner with the Pediatric Clinic of Sweetwater Memorial.
“Upsetting events will happen again. We can plan on that. Children must know they can look to their parents as a source of comfort when something causes distress.”Advertisement - Story continues below...-Tammy Walker, Certified Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist
Here’s a Q & A from Walker offering some suggestions:
Is it OK for parents to talk to their children about it?
Absolutely. Parents should always encourage the expression of honest feelings and receive those feelings without judgment. Children need to know they have a place to go to discuss uncomfortable topics, and this is undoubtedly uncomfortable for people to talk about.
How should they approach it?
As a parent, first check your response and processing of what has happened. Turn off the news. Use self-care techniques to model excellent and healthy coping responses. Teach your children how to do this. Go for a walk, do something kind for someone, develop a skill, create something new, and get involved in creating positive change.
What should parents say?
Ensure safety. There is no scenario where a person has a 0% risk of being a part of a mass shooting, but statistically, the chances are minimal. Encourage the expression of honest feelings. Speak to your child in terms they can understand. If you cannot assist them in processing traumatic events, seek help. Reach out to area resources such as Southwest Counseling Services and other counseling providers who specialize in assisting children and adults in processing difficult information.
Are there materials available to order or download that would help?
- “Helping children after a disaster” from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry HERE.
- “Restoring a sense of safety in the aftermath of a mass shooting” from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress HERE.
- “Age-related reactions to traumatic events” from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network HERE.