By Natalie Clark

How to help your child through a tragedy

Tracey Bratton, LCSW

School shootings have become a major worry for children and youth across the nation. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your child to help him/her feel safe and secure when tragedy strikes. They look to you for this felt safety already, and it becomes even more important at these uncertain times. 

Here are a few tips for staying connected with your child through traumatic events:

  • Open, honest, age-appropriate communication
    • Talk at key times –during commuting, dinner or at bedtime
    • Ask them how they are dealing with the news –don’t wait on them to talk about it
    • When they’re communicating their feelings. thoughts, concerns, etc., actively listen without interrupting
    • Validate and normalize their feelings
    • If they have misinformation, gently, but honestly correct them
    • Console them with a hug and let them know they are safe
  • Ensure your child feels safe
    • Make sure home is a safe haven and a comfort to your child
  • Watch your child for changes in mood and/or behaviors
    • Fear, anxiety, grief, increased stress
    • Changes in appetite and/or sleep, nightmares
    • Difficulty concentrating on school/homework
  • Ensure your child is not over-exposing himself/herself with news reports, internet searches, etc. about the traumatic event
  • Model self-care for your child
    • To take care of your child, you will need to take good care of yourself
    • Keep routine schedules
    • Make time for exercise and fun family activities

These are just a few tips for helping your child through a traumatic event. If you or your child feel stuck, reach out to your support system and talk to a close friend, relative, or pastor. If you’re overwhelmed and your daily routine is disrupted, it may be a good idea to consult with a mental health professional.

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