Helping Kids Cope with Tragedy After the Connecticut School Shooting

Coping with the Connecticut School Shooting

On Friday, December 15th, 2012, a horrible tragedy struck the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. A 20-year-old man entered the building and shot and killed 20 children and six adults. While the details regarding Adam Lanza’s rampage are still sketchy, the one thing that isn’t so sketchy is the fact that this shooting had an enormous emotional impact on the parents everywhere.  I know my first thought was to go grab my son from school and never let him out of my sight again.

While many parents opted not to tell their kids about the Connecticut school shooting, children are very perceptive. They know when something is bothering their parents. Some kids may hear about the tragedy from friends and other family members, and older children may have been looped in by their peers, school officials, or even their parents. Helping kids make sense of such a huge tragedy isn’t easy, especially when parents can’t make sense of it themselves, but it’s important to the overall psychological well-being of your child. Even if you don’t think it had an effect because it happened hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of miles away, kids may not understand the distance and can still feel fearful after such an event.

Helping Your Child Cope with the Connecticut School Shooting Tragedy

Whether your child heard about the Connecticut school shooting or is dealing with another tragedy in his or her life, there are a few basic tips that you can follow to help them cope better.

  • First and foremost, recognize that their feelings are valid and let them know it is okay to feel how they feel. Some children may be terrified, while others will just be sad. Others still may appear to feel nothing at all simply because they tragedy doesn’t personally affect them and they don’t yet know how to empathize with others far away. Allow your child the freedom to express his feelings, whatever they may be.
  • Don’t sugarcoat the tragedy. Children are way smarter than we often give them credit for. Don’t lie to them and tell them something wasn’t a big deal, or that it’s nothing to worry about. Be as honest as possible by giving age-relevant information.
  • Stick to the facts. On the flip side, don’t be overly honest. For children who heard about the Connecticut school shooting from another party, explain the very basics of the event. Explain that a disturbed man broke into the school and hurt the children and teachers, but that he is gone now and won’t be coming back. Make sure your child understands that this is a rare occurrence, and that schools are usually a safe place.
  • Watch your child for signs of stress. Over the days that follow the tragedy, monitor your child for additional signs of stress. Changes in sleeping or eating habits are a tip-off that something deeper could be going on in her mind.
  • Consult with a professional. If your child seems to be more deeply affected by the tragedy than you can handle on your own, consider consulting a child psychologist to help get through the rough time.

Dealing with a tragedy as extreme and disturbing as the Connecticut school shooting isn’t easy for anyone. As adults, we are at a loss for words when it comes to making sense of the entire tragedy. Imagine how much more difficult it must be for a child. The best tip for helping them cope is to just be there for them.

6 thoughts on “Helping Kids Cope with Tragedy After the Connecticut School Shooting”

  1. Krystle(Baking Beauty)

    Great advice. I love that you mentioned stick to the facts. There is so much misinformation from friends, and the media. Sadly we don’t know what really happened, so we shouldn’t compensate with conjecture!

  2. Great post. We live in Colorado where we’ve experienced a lot of horrific tragedies lately, and the 10 year old girl that went missing and was murdered in October is less than 3 miles from my house. My older teens get what’s going on, but my 9 year old is a little tougher. Fortunately/unfortunately he was attacked by a dog at age 6 and suffered ptsd from it so….. he went through ptsd therapy for almost 9 months and I absolutely and so very thankful to have had his therapist to be able to help ME through these shootings so that I am better able to help my kids.

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