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Talking to Children About Violent Events

Talking to Children About Violent Events

Dear Families,

We were all concerned on Wednesday morning to learn of the police activity.  Even though it is over now, our children will have questions. They look to us for information and guidance on how to react.  How do we communicate with them about such events in developmentally appropriate ways?

    1. Maintain a sense of normalcy and routine to minimize stress and anxiety.
    2. Reassure children that they are safe, and the adults in their world do everything to help keep them safe.  Explain specific ways in which you and the school keeps them safe.
    3. Limit exposure to the news.  Shield young children from disturbing news.  For older children, monitor exposure to the news and avoid repeated TV viewings of the same news event.  Studies show that children who watch a lot of violence on TV or other media feel less safe than those that don’t.
    4. Find out what your child knows about the news and events.  Listen to what your child tells you and ask follow-up questions.  Kids feel better when they talk about their feelings.
    5. Explain appropriately.  For young children, simplify complex ideas and move on. (“A person who was very, very confused fired a gun.  The police are working to make sure people are safe.”). For older children, be honest and direct without sensationalizing the event.  For teens, assume they know, but don’t assume their knowledge is complete.

We know you are very aware of the stress children (and adults!) experience when they know events like this happen around them.  We want to make sure we do not add to their stress and anxiety. Here are some helpful resources and tips on helping children deal with violent events:

National Association of School Psychologists (see also the PDF linked here)

PBS Parents  

Child Development Institute

Common Sense Media   

Fred Rogers Productions

Your partner in cultivating a safe, whole, and nurturing world,

Mountain Song Community School
Executive Leadership Team

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