First and foremost our hearts go out to all of the families affected by the incident in Newtown today.
It is difficult to find the words to reassure our children when something so unexplainable and unspeakable happens, in a place where we all expect children to be safe. There are no magic words to say to make this all better for your children. It is normal for them to feel scared, anxious, and even overwhelmed when they hear about what happened. As adults, we feel that too.
Here are a few suggestions for helping reassure your child in the aftermath of this tragedy:
• Let them express their fears and concerns. Acknowledge their feelings Yes, it is sad and yes, it is scary. It can be hard to listen to your child’s sadness or fear, but it is important to take the time to listen and let them know you are available to listen.
• Don’t be afraid to let them see your feelings. Yes, you are sad too. But do keep your feelings in control in front of them so they are not overwhelmed by your sadness or fear.
• Limit exposure to media about the event, especially avoid graphic details and video. This is hard for them to process, may frighten them even more, and serves no purpose.
• Answer their questions at an age appropriate level. Be honest but reassuring. Remind them of all the people who work to keep them safe (parents, school staff, neighbors, policeman, etc.)
• In the days and weeks ahead, remind them of the good things that are happening in the news and in their world. Point out acts of kindness and compassion.. At times like these, we all need to remind ourselves of the good stuff in life.
• If they don’t seem affected or interested, that is okay too. Some kids might protect themselves by not thinking about it. Remain open to talk but don’t pressure them.
• It is normal for children to show symptoms of anxiety after a traumatic event in a local community. (Even the lockdown itself was likely very scary for some kids). Symptoms of this anxiety might include stomach ache, nightmares, clingy behavior, and more. Sometimes it helps to explain how being upset can cause these things and it will get better.
• If you have concerns about your child’s reaction to this event, or need further support as a parent, contact the New Milford Youth Agency (860) 354-0047
Here is a link to more tips on talking to children after a traumatic event: http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/resources_for_families/talking_to_children_about_community_violence