Talking to Your Child About the Recent Shooting

We at Family Star would like to offer condolences to the victims and families of those who have been recently touched by the tragic shooting that occurred today. We recognize how difficult it is to cope with such violence when we as adults are personally impacted by such an event.  When these events hit the news, anxiety regarding safety for our children increases.  As a parent, you have the challenge of helping your child feel secure when you may be experiencing insecurity yourself.  As a parent’s anxiety and distress increases so does your child’s as they are so attune to a parent’s emotional experiences.   As adults we want to protect children from this violence, however with such a widespread incident, it is difficult to keep such news from all children.  Here are some helpful suggestions to talk to your child about the recent shooting and other forms of violence.

  1. Avoid over exposure to the news – the news often replays the frightening event which can make a child believe the event is occurring over and over again.  Try to limit your child’s exposure to the violent; repetitive incident will also increase your child’s ability to bounce back from this event.
  2. Find out what your child may know about the incident – children will often overhear discussion of the incident or see the news depictions of the event.  It is helpful to learn how your child perceives this event and learn what his/her thoughts are regarding the event.  If your child is uninterested in discussing the event, follow his/her cue.  Some children may not feel initially comfortable discussing the incident or they may not feel affected by the incident.  Remind your child that they can speak to you when they are ready and validate their experience.
  3. Keep it simple – explain the incident in language your child can understand.  Using words like “bad man” or “hurt.”  Using kid friendly language will decrease confusion for your child.
  4. Reassure your child – during an event in which the safety of others is jeopardized, your child may experience an increase in insecurity.  Reassuring your child that he/she and your family are safe is important for your child to feel secure.  Also consider emphasizing that Family Star is also safe as well so that your child feels secure while at school as well.
  5. Validate your child’s feelings – your child may experience many emotions related to this violent event. Some of those emotions may be: confusion, fear, anxiety, and insecurity.  When you observe your child’s feelings, whatever they may be, acknowledge their emotional experience.  You may want to say something like “It looks like you are feeling scared after what happened today.” You may want to couple your validation with reassurance; acknowledging their experience while reassuring your child that he/she is safe.
  6. Stick to your routines – after this violent event you may feel tempted to overprotect your child and keep him/her close to you at all times, however by maintaining their regular routine a child feels safe and secure.  Continue to maintain the schedule and routine you had prior to this event will increase your child’s resilience.

If you should have any questions regarding how to talk to your child about this tragedy or you are need of assistance with this tragic even, please feel free to contact the Mental Health Consultants at Family Star.  Lauren Ross who provides assistance to the children and families in the NIDO and IC classrooms is available at (303) 918-8233 or by email at lross@familystar.net and Jillian Faux who provides assistance to the children and families in the Primary classrooms is available at (720) 282-9342 or by email at jfaux@familystar.net.