Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Talking with Kids After Tragedy Strikes Again

By Sam Piha

This blog is intended to help afterschool programs promote young people’s learning and healthy development. However, it seems that much of this space is dominated by issues of trauma and violence, from Parkland to Charlottesville to the grief of the COVID pandemic to now the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Tx. 

And now, on top of all those already existing pandemic-related chronic stressors, many children and families may be overwhelmed with the added fear of sending their children to school,” - Katherine Williams, child and adolescent psychologist and professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego

I think Steve Kerr, coach of the NBA Golden State Warriors said it best in his pregame press conference for game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. “I'm not going to talk about basketball. Nothing's happened with our team in the last six hours. We're going to start the same way tonight. Any basketball questions don't matter. When are we going to do something? I'm tired. I'm so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I'm so tired. Excuse me. I'm sorry. I'm tired of the moments of silence. Enough!” See the video of his press conference

After the tragic shooting in Texas, several articles have offered tips on how to discuss these events with kids, and offer a number of resources for those who want to learn more. Below I summarize tips from two articles, Texas School Shooting: How to Help Kids Get Through Unspeakable Horror and Nine Tips for Talking with Kids About Trauma.

  • Initiate the conversation and talk to kids about their concerns
  • Listen
  • Find out what they know
  • Give kids a sense of control and reassuring facts about their safety
  • Treat children according to their age
  • Limit exposure to media
  • Encourage children to share their feelings
  • Share your feelings
  • Focus on the good
  • Encourage children to act
  • Observe children’s emotional state and seek help if necessary.
  • Model healthy behavior and take care of yourself
  • Maintain routines

After a tragedy, kids will have questions. How do we respond? As much as we might want to, we can’t always protect children from witnessing violence and tragedy in the world, whether it’s mass shootings, terrorist attacks, or war. As parents, teachers, and other supportive adults, what we can do is comfort and communicate with children in the most healing way possible.Kira M. Newman, Greater Good Science Center

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