The following guidelines may help you in addressing the incident with your children based on the information currently known about the tragedy to this point.
- Avoid exposing children to too much media coverage.
- Avoid fostering rumors and speculation about the tragedy.
Age and Stage Responses
Preschool-2nd grade – discuss the incident only if the child has heard any of the news. There is no need to inform the child of the tragedy if the child does not know about it.
3rd- 5th graders are more likely to have heard the news. Decide whether to bring the issue up with 3rd and 4th graders based on their temperaments.
Check for what your child knows – Ask, “What have you heard today?”
You may choose to approach the subject with children in 6th grade and older.
No matter your child’s age, consider the following responses based on how you believe you need to address the tragedy with your child.
- The tragedy is isolated and tragedies like this happen rarely.
- The fact that this tragedy happened does not mean there is an immediate danger where you live.
- Emphasize that safety precautions are in place in schools.
- Reflect what your child may be feeling – “I know this is scary news. It is very sad.”
- Emphasize empathy for the victims – “It is very sad that this happened to those families and children.”
- Teenagers may reflect on the fragile nature of life and the unpredictability of life.
The conversation may focus on:
- Validating your child’s feelings – it is OK to feel scared or sad
- Emphasizing that your child is safe
- Empathizing with the victims
Dr. Brad Schwall
Permission granted to re-distribute these tips.