On February 14, 2018, there was another mass shooting at a school, this time in Parkland, Florida. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families devastated by this tragedy. As we struggle to cope with this tragedy, we need to figure out how to talk about this with our kids. Parents can help their kids feel safe (or safer) by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and by talking to them about their fears. At some point, our kids are going to learn about what happened, and we need to be prepared to talk about it.
How do we do that? Here are some tips:
1. Observe your child’s emotional state. Sometimes it takes a while for anxiety and depression to manifest itself. You know your child better than anyone. And don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
2. Make time to talk. Let your child’s questions guide you in how much information to provide. Sometimes it takes a while for them to express their feelings.
3. Validate their feelings. Let them talk about their fears.
4. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate. For example, kids in early elementary need brief, simple information balanced with assurance that school personnel are there to protect them. Give simple reminders of school safety, like reminding them about school safety drills and locked doors.
5. Review safety procedures at home and at school. This is a good chance to also review your family’s emergency procedures. For example, if something happened to you, who would the school contact? Who would have the legal authority to take care of your kids? What happens if you don’t live near family?
6. Limit television viewing. We live in an era of the 24-hour news cycle. This can be overwhelming, even for adults.
7. Explain that there’s a difference between reporting, tattling and gossiping. Encourage kids to talk to a trusted adult if they see or hear about something that may harm others.
8. Explain that while there is no absolute guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen, you will try your best to keep them safe because you love them more than anything in this world.
This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty, who does more than just draft documents. She guides families through difficult topics, like estate planning, so they can protect what matters most. Myrna may be reached at (813) 514-2946 and firstname.lastname@example.org.