It is hard for us as both school counseling providers, as well as parents, to explain tragedies and violence in the world to our children. It is an unfortunate time when we have to reassure students that they are safe in school and in their homes. This can become more difficult when the news is filled with frightening visuals and stories. Our Superintendent's blog has already referenced several natural disasters, in addition to events such as Las Vegas, since the start our our school year.
I believe it's important to address these events with your children, not to scare them, but to validate their feelings and give them a safe space to express themselves. How and what you describe in conjunction with the language used should be developmentally appropriate. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends the following in regards to discussing how they can feel and be safe at school:
- Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be
balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are
there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children
about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and
emergency drills practiced during the school day.
- Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking
questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school.
They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and
community leaders to provide safe schools.
- Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions
about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete
suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society.
Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school
safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on
campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community
members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators,
and accessing support for emotional needs.
A helpful description is to explain the difference between the possibility of something happening and probability that it could happen to your child or family. Always monitor their exposure through television, online media and automatic notifications. If you see their behavior changing drastically after an event, talk it over with them. Worldwide events can bring up strong feelings of past circumstances in your child's life. Keep to a reassuring attitude and tone, and maintain routines as best as possible.
As always, if you feel that your child is greatly affected by what they see in the news, please reach out to the counseling department for assistance.
Excerpts from: Tips for Parents and Teachers for Talking to Children About Violence