When a school shooting dominates the news, experts say parents can use the situation as a chance to talk with their children.
Kids will react differently to hearing about Monday’s school shooting in Chardon, depending on their age, said Dr. Stephen Cosby, director of the Division of Pediatric Psychiatry and Psychology at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Younger children can exhibit symptoms of anxiety, such as fear of going to school or leaving their parents, he said. Teens might say they are “cool with it” but then show their true concerns through angry outbursts or irritability.
But whatever the age or reaction, Cosby said, “the first thing is to not be afraid to talk to the kids and to listen.
“Make sure parents and teachers talk about what’s going on at the school,” he said. “What is the school going to do to make sure students feel safe?”
Sometimes it helps to talk with children about what they would do if they heard a similar situation might occur or if a shooter actually came into their school.
“Having a strategy for what to do can help,” Cosby said.
Parents should talk to their children about whether they know another student who is alienated from peers, Cosby said. Many times, school shootings are done by students who consider themselves outcasts.
“It’s a very good time to have discussions about people feeling alienated at school,” he said. “It’s a great time to talk about these kinds of situations and what they can do to make sure kids don’t feel alienated.”
Cosby said these news stories also give parents an opportunity “to think about access to firearms in the home.”
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry shares these other tips to help children cope with disasters or violence:
•?Use words and concepts children can understand.
•?Give honest answers and information.
•?Don’t be surprised if children ask the same questions again and again as a way to seek reassurance.
•?Let your children know how you are feeling about the event, but don’t burden them with your concerns.
•?Be reassuring, but don’t make unrealistic promises.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.