KidsPeace offers assistance to parents in wake of school shooting
Many parents have been asking for guidance on how to talk to their children about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and understand the short and long term impact of the events.
Jodi S.W. Campbell, MS, KidsPeace leader of the Critical Incident Response Team, assistant director of Organizational Development and Training shared with The Press tips for parents to help children in the wake of a large scale tragedy such as this.
"The first thing you want to do is listen to what they have to say," Campbell said. "Let them talk and validate whatever emotion they are showing. Say that it is OK to feel that way. Everyone is feeling that way, you are right, this is a very horrible thing to happen."
Parents have asked whether they should discuss the incident with their children at all.
"You should absolutely tell your child what happened," Campbell said. "They will find out some other way. You would rather them hear the news from you than others.
"Make sure you are talking to them. When they ask questions, try to limit your answers to what they are asking.
"For example, if they ask, 'Did anyone die?' say yes, unfortunately some people died. You do not need to give all of the details. Give them just enough information. Let the child guide you. When they feel satisfied, they will stop asking questions. If you keep talking, they may not know how to say, 'I don't need to hear any more.' Let them guide you."
Campbell also suggests limiting the child's exposure to the media.
"Do not have the television on the entire day."
Parents are also advised to be tolerant and understanding of some of the normal responses from children such as not wanting to go to school, go out, go to bed or go to sleep.
"Validate it," Campbell said, by saying, "It sounds like you are really scared to go out, how can I make you feel better?" Campbell said if going out is something they do not have to do, do not force them; be understanding.
"If they do not want to go to school, encourage them by saying, 'What if I took you to school' or 'If I walked in with you, would that make you feel better?' or 'Would you feel better if you knew you could call me in the middle of the day?'"
Campbell suggests being tolerant and understanding and to do whatever you can to make sure the child feels safe and secure, as best as you can.
"There are no guarantees in this world but we can do our best in the here and now to make them feel safe today."
Campbell said normal reactions to extraordinary events include sleep problems, eating problems, sadness, tearfulness, fear, anxiety, worry, irritability, anger, nightmares, headaches, upset stomach, trouble focusing, feeling "numb" or "fuzzy," not wanting to go to school, not wanting to leave their "comfort zone" (with whomever or wherever that is), being "OK" at first but then "breaking down" unexpectedly or wanting to avoid the situation or talking about the situation.
Campbell said it is normal for these symptoms to persist for a few weeks. After that point, they will probably subside a little bit at a time. If they do not get better or symptoms get worse, seek help. Reach out to the guidance department at your child's school or you can call KidsPeace at 1-800-KPHELPS. You or your child may also visit www.teencentral.net for additional resources.
Lastly, Campbell said parents must take care of themselves.
"As parents, we can't help our children if we aren't taking care of our own needs," he said.