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Talking to Your Children about Tragedy

Published on Dec 18, 2012 at 7:53 pm in Law and Information.

School shootings, like the one that recently happened in Newtown, Connecticut, can raise difficult questions for adults. They wonder whether their children are safe at school and what they can do to raise awareness within their own communities. Many times though, children who see the news and overhear adults talking about the tragedy develop their own questions and fears. That’s why it makes sense for adults to learn how they can help children process the distressing information and emotions that they might experience after a tragedy.

What Parents Can Do to Help Children

The American Psychological Association (APA) has several tips that can help children process distressing events so that they can cope with the situation in positive ways.

Some tips from the APA include:

  • Making home a safe place where children can always feel loved during a crisis.
  • Monitoring how much news children watch to make sure they don’t get overwhelmed by unsettling images, interviews, and statistics.
  • Setting aside time to talk to children so they can express their concerns and have their questions answered.
  • Watching for signs of excess stress or anxiety that can turn into long-term mental health issues.

Seeking Professional Assistance

Depending on a child’s reaction to the tragedy, he or she may need help from a trained counselor. When the issues become too big for a parent to handle, it’s important to seek professional assistance.

Some children bounce back from tragedies very quickly. It’s amazing how brave and resilient children are. Others struggle to understand an event that doesn’t really have an understandable cause.

If you think that your child is experiencing excessive fear, worry, or anxiety, then it’s time to talk to a counselor. Many counselors offer family therapy sessions that allow parents and adults to share their concerns. Intensive therapy, however, isn’t always just about expressing emotions. Counselors often use tools such as cognitive-behavioral therapy to teach children how to take control of unwanted thoughts so they don’t fall victim to intense, unwanted emotions.

Finding Help in Your Community

The Louisville area has numerous resources that can help adults and children recover from the stress of tragic events, like the one that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary. Some resources in the community include:

  • Seven Counties
  • Counselors working for the JCPS
  • Private counseling from social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by this terrible tragedy.