Often, we are afraid to talk about tragedy with our children.
In the wake of the horrendous tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, we are faced with not only dealing with our own emotions, but also deciding how and when to discuss these events with our children. The most important thing to remember is BE AVAILABLE.
Often, we are afraid to talk about tragedy with our children. What if I say something wrong? What if I make it worse? I don’t know what to say, so maybe I shouldn’t say anything at all.
This internal dialogue keeps us from opportunities to connect with children and create meaningful dialogue even in the midst of a difficult situation. Keep in mind that it is okay to initiate the conversation. Let your children know you are interested in them and want to know what they think. Create opportunities for conversation when they are most likely to be able to focus on a conversation; before dinner, bedtime or while riding in the car are excellent times to catch a breath and have a conversation with your child.
Even if it makes you uncomfortable, allow them to talk (without interrupting!) before you respond. It is important to hear what they are thinking to listen for any “false information” and gently correct anything that is not true. Remember, it is okay for you to say, “I don’t know”. Children are experts at knowing when adults are not being truthful. Keeping the truth from them decreases their sense of safety and trust in the adults around them.
During this time, it is essential to reassure children that they are safe. It is also important to remember that your children may come home seeking a safe place. Limiting social media, television and outside distractions can help bring a more peaceful and positive environment in your home. Sometimes children may need very concrete activities such as drawing, journaling or looking at books to help them describe and understand their feelings.
Taking the time to do these activities together provides an opportunity to help them process their feelings and create safe connections. Make sure to monitor the conversations going on in your home. Children are very perceptive and take their cues from the adults around them.
If your child expresses fear regarding going to school, remind them that schools are safe places. Remember that while we cannot guarantee that nothing bad will happen, there are teachers, counselors, administrators and other school employees who are committed to keeping them safe. Help your children identify at least one adult at their school or in the community to whom they could go if they did not feel safe. As you observe your child’s emotional state and you notice any of the following such changes in behavior, appetite, sleep patterns, high levels of anxiety or sadness, please seek help. Your child’s school district, Desert Sands Unified is a great place to find resources such as school counselors, school psychologists and licensed therapists available to assist you and your family.
If your child needs additional support at school, contact your principal or school counselor.
If you or a family member would like help finding a mental health care or substance, use treatment provider, contact Care Solace, a complementary and confidential coordination service provided by Desert Sands Unified School District:
- Call 888-515-0595. Support is available 24/7/365 in any language.
Click here and either search on your own OR click “Book Appointment” for assistance by video chat, email, or phone.
To read the letter sent home to DSUSD families Wednesday evening, click here.
- School Shooting: Shutterstock