If you have a school-age child, he or she may have come home today with questions about the Connecticut school shooting. Julia Hoke, a psychologist with the Austin Child Guidance Center, says it’s important for parents to reassure children of the safety plans in their school. You can remind them of the school’s safety measures, like checking in all visitors or having security doors.
Hoke says it’s also important to let children know the chances of a similar shooting happening at their school.
“Kids aren’t real good, especially young kids, at judging probability, how likely something is to happen,” she says. “And hearing about this may make them think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to happen at my school.’ That would be a very common thing for a young child to think. And so it’s important for parents to tell children school shootings aren’t common.”
She says parents should not say this could never happen. And if your child continues to be fixated on the shooting, or is having mood swings, parents may want to reach out to a counselor for help.
But if your child doesn’t mention it at all, should you bring it up? Hoke says that with older children, who are more media-savvy and spend time on the Internet, parents shouldn’t wait for questions.
“It probably is important with older children for parents just to give some facts about what has happened so that their child is hearing it accurately from a parent and not getting some sensationalized version from their friend,” she says.
Hoke says you can begin to calm down a stressed or frightened child simply by reminding them of the safety procedures in place at their school.
“At my child’s school you have to buzz to get into the school,” she said. “And you have to check in at the front office. You know, kind of remind your child of concrete things that they know about that are safety strategies that are in place.”
If your preschool or early elementary-aged child doesn’t ask questions about the shooting, don’t force a conversation, Hoke says. But do limit their media exposure.