Dr. Sarkis on how to talk to your children about the Connecticut shooting

Dr. Elias SarkisElias H. Sarkis, MD., founder of Sarkis Family
Psychiatry offers some recommendations for parents
who have the difficult task of talking to their children,
who may be scared and confused, about the deadly
shooting that happened this week at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

1. Limit media exposure.

Repeated images of violence on television will impact children negatively. Depending on the age of the child, watching the scenes of the shooting site over and over again will increase anxiety and fear.

2. Ground yourself first.

Children are very sensitive to their parents’ emotional states. It is important for you to calm yourself first before talking to your child. You can do this by communicating with parents, teachers, religious leaders or others that you trust. The calmer you are, the better your child will respond. Being authentic and sharing your emotions with your child provides your child a model on how to process his/her own emotions.

3. Be honest.

It is important to maintain perspective on these tragic events. They are rare. Schools are in fact safe places for children the vast majority of the time.
It’s important to reassure children but to maintain sincerity and to remain genuine. False reassurances will only make your child more insecure.

4. Maintain open lines of communication.

Sometimes children repeat the same questions over and over again. Make sure you remain available to them and maintain your patience. It’s important to listen to your children’s concerns and to respond specifically to those concerns. You may have to do this many times. Something may remind them of the tragedy, from time to time. Do not be surprised by this. Answer their questions honestly and reassure them appropriately.

5. You know your Children best.

Every child is different. Children respond differently to the same events. Even siblings in the same family will respond differently. Some children may respond with increasing clinginess while others may be more withdrawn and detached. Some may be more fidgety and restless. It’s important to realize that these different emotional responses may be attributed to this tragic event. Understanding this, you may invite your child to talk about what’s bothering him or her and not take the behaviors at face value. If your child continues to overreact despite your best ability, please remember that there are professionals that can help your family.


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