How to Talk to Your Kids about the Vegas Shootings
Shock. Fear. Anger. Grief. All legitimate responses to the tragedy that unfolded in Las Vegas early this week. Situations such as these seem unfathomable to many of us adults, but what about kids? How do we talk about these things with our kids? Here are six ground rules to keep in mind:
1. Limit their exposure to the media during this time. Avoid exposure to graphic images and sounds of the shooting. NEVER allow very young children to hear or see any sounds or videos associated with the event. Remember that kids are always listening to what is around them – even if you do not think they are paying any attention, children can be very sensitive to how their parents feel. Limit your own exposure, as well. Non-stop media coverage of a violent or traumatic event can lead to secondary trauma.
2. Have the conversation with your kids. Don’t avoid the topic, as that can lead to the child being even more upset and frightened about the situation. Avoidance of the subject can suggest that it is too horrible for adults to even speak about.
3. Find out what your children already know about the event – what have they heard? What have they seen? What do they believe occurred? Listen for incorrect information or beliefs, as well as underlying fears or anxieties. New information may arise as time goes on, there may be newer information than they have heard. Be certain to make sure they have the accurate information using simple, age-appropriate information. Be sure to highlight the “helpers” – first responders such as law enforcement and medical response, as well as the citizen heroes to help their fellow man.
4. Role-model for your children and show a little extra patience during this time. Share your own feelings about the event at a level that they can understand. Express sadness and empathy for the victims and their families. Understand that the feelings brought up by this horrific event will be hard for your kids to understand.
5. Encourage your kids to ask questions or share any concerns they may have. It is normal for kids to worry that something like this could happen to them, to you, or to their friends and family. Reassure them. You may see changes in your children – trouble concentrating, irritability, separation anxiety in younger children, changes in sleep and eating patterns – especially if they have been exposed to violence in the past. These reactions often lessen within a few weeks.
6.If the reactions continue beyond a few weeks, worsen significantly, or start to interfere with your children’s ability to function, seek assistance from local mental health professionals with expertise in trauma.
In times like these – which seem to be far too often – hold on to one of my favorite quotes –
“There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: ‘Always look for the helpers,’ she’d tell me. ‘There’s always someone who is trying to help.’ I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong….To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Mister Rogers
About The Author
Stephanie A. Barisch, who has both a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology as well as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPS) has been a practitioner in the human service field for over twenty years. Stephanie currently serves as the Regional Clinical Supervisor at The Center for Youth and Family Solutions Behavioral Counseling program and oversees SASS (Screening, Assessment Support Services) which provides crisis intervention services in an effort to stabilize youth experiencing severe emotional or behavioral problems due to a mental illness.