Tips, Resources For Talking To Children About Tragic Events
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Experts have several recommendations for helping children deal with the horrific events at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 young students were killed.
Specialists at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt suggested parents first stop and process the tragedy for themselves before speaking to their children.
They say to first ask kids what they know and see if they have any questions. It's especially important to reassure children that the adults in their life are doing all they can to keep them safe.
School safety, even in the last 10 to 15 years has evolved. In Tennessee, each school is required to have a plan that addresses various scenarios that would require a lock down or evacuation.
Tennessee's Executive Director for Safe and Supportive Schools, Mike Herrmann, said the state has some of the toughest laws when it comes to keeping kids out of harm's way.
"Our ability to control access, to use technology – to use things like video surveillance cameras, door buzzers those sorts of things we've really come a long way," said Herrman.
All across the mid-state, schools contacted parents Friday to reassure them of the safety measures that are already taken.
In light of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, all principals with Metro Nashville Public Schools have been directed to review their safety plans.
Administrators at Williamson County Schools have checked-in with local law enforcement.
They have also been reminding parents to follow the district's check-in and check-out procedures.
Some additional tips for talking to your children from Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital:
Calm yourself before talking to your children. If you appear nervous and anxious, they will pick up on your emotions. A calm demeanor will help reassure your child of her own safety.
Turn off the TV and other media. Images from the scene are upsetting. Although the video and picture are from earlier in the day, younger children may believe the event is still happening again and again. Turn the news on or check social media when children are out of the room.
Consider your child's age before talking about it. Younger children may not be aware anything happened - and probably doesn't need to know. Answer questions that come up.
Be proactive with older children. Children's hospital specialists suggest you start the conversation with "you may have heard about..." then ask what questions they have.
It's okay to be sad or angry. Allow your child to feel and express their emotions about what happened.
Reassure and emphasize their safety. Talk about what adults do to keep them safe - especially at school. Talk about their school's safety plan and what to do in the event of an emergency.
Help the child find ways to cope with their fear and grief. "Providing outlets like artwork or imaginative play can help them process their feelings. Draw on ways your family typically copes with a crisis such as sending a card, making a donation as a family to help the victims or praying together."