How to talk to your child about a traumatic event like a school shooting

School shootings have become an unfortunate fact of life in the U.S.

No matter how hard officials try to protect students or how many safeguards schools implement, gun violence is a sad and life-threatening reality in American classrooms.

If your child is a witness to a school shooting or knows someone who was, it might be time to address the issue head on and talk about the trauma.

Some children express their emotions when confronted with a stressful situation and others don’t.

Whatever the case, parents should be prepared to talk and, most importantly, listen to their children.

Atlanta social worker Juan Moore suggests parents continue to talk with their children about what happened for several days or weeks after the incident.

“Even if you think your child is alright, there can be a delayed response,” Moore said.

Here are some tips from the American Psychological Association for dealing with children and trauma:

  • Think about what you want to say. Some advanced planing may make the discussion easier.
  • Find out what they know. For example, there was a shooting at a school or a bomb set off in another country. Ask them "What have you heard about this?" And then listen.
  • Tell the truth. Lay out the facts at a level they can understand. You do not need to give graphic details.
  • Sometimes the answer to the question is "I don't know. "Why did the bad people do this?" "I don't know."
  • Above all, reassure. At the end of the conversation, reassure your children that you will work to keep them safe and to watch out for them. Be available to answer any questions or talk about this topic again in the future. Reassure them that they are loved.
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