Help Your School Age Child Cope with Tragedy

Woman talking to teenage girlIn the wake of recent school violence tragedies, it can be hard for parents to know how best to address these situations with their children. Below are some tips from UPMC Children's Community Pediatrics’ Behavioral Health providers to help you talk with your child about this difficult subject.

  • Limit or avoid sensationalized and repeated media stories, especially on TV and for children seven-years-old and younger.
  • Be accessible and available, and allow your children to talk freely. Do not dismiss their fears. Listen. Check back with your children after your discussion to see how they are feeling. Let them know most of us are quite upset by these events as well.
  • Work to stay calm and reassuring. Try to limit your emotions when speaking with them.
  • Offer more comfort and reassurance. Be patient. Kids may ask the same questions over and over again in seeking reassurance.
  • Be honest, but brief and to the point – and be developmentally appropriate. Older children will often offer solutions, blame, etc. while younger children may only have basic questions about their safety.
  • Do not make up facts. If you don’t have all the facts, it’s okay to say "we are still learning about how this happened."
  • Keep your routine.
  • Remind children about their teachers who work to keep them safe and care about them.
  • Expect some children to have some sleep problems, separation problems, and anxiety/fears for a brief period – up to a week or so. See your pediatrician for worsening behavioral symptoms lasting more than a few weeks. Children with previous trauma may be at increased risk.
  • Contact your UPMC CCP pediatrician should you have any specific concerns about your child.

For additional information regarding this subject, please review the following resources from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.