Talking to your children about violenceWhen school shootings or other crimes of violence occur, it can be difficult to comprehend. Many people talk about it with others to try to make sense of it, or to try to cope with their own shock and grief. But what do you say if your children ask about or hear about it from someone else? How much do you tell them? How do you address their own safety concerns?
By: Christina Rittenbach, NDSU Extension, The Jamestown Sun
When school shootings or other crimes of violence occur, it can be difficult to comprehend. Many people talk about it with others to try to make sense of it, or to try to cope with their own shock and grief. But what do you say if your children ask about or hear about it from someone else? How much do you tell them? How do you address their own safety concerns?
One important thing to remember is to not hide these events from your children. They will most likely hear about it somewhere else, and they may be scared or concerned. Ask your children how they feel about the event so you are prepared to support them.
Keep your children’s age in mind. You should not have the same conversation with your preschooler that you have with your teenager. For preschool-aged children, you could start out the conversation by saying, “That looks/seems pretty scary, doesn’t it?” and “How do you feel about it?” They may be very confused and unsure if what happened to others will happen to them. Be reassuring and comforting with this age.
School-age children may want to hear what your feelings are about the event. It is OK to tell them that you feel sad for the families and people involved, but do not encourage them to be scared. Children this age look toward the adults around them to help them gauge how they should react to the event.
Teenagers and young adults may want more details as to what happened. This age group has more coping strategies to be able to handle a more in-depth conversation. Start out by expressing your own feelings, and your teenagers may feel comfortable sharing theirs as well. It may also be helpful to discuss what safety procedures their school has and what they can do to keep themselves safe in the event of a violent crime.
Finally, continue to talk to your children about it. They may not be able to immediately resolve their feelings associated with a violent event, but may not want to bring it up themselves. An open line of communication can be important to helping children deal with their feelings.
For more information on this topic, or other parenting issues, please contact Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent, at 252-9030 or christina.rittenbach@ndsu. edu