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Help your kids cope with school shootings in the news

A man sits with his arm around a worried boy

When a school shooting makes the news, children are often stressed and scared—even if the tragedy takes place far away.

As a parent, that's where you come in. Here are some ways you can help a child to feel less stressed and more secure:

Talk about it. Ask your children to share how they feel about the school shooting. You might start by asking what they've heard and if they have questions about what happened. Listen carefully and offer facts in an honest, but age-appropriate way.

Talking about it can reduce worries and fears kids might have. But don't pressure your kids to share. Keep in mind that young children may want to draw pictures rather than express their feelings in words. That's OK too.

Put violent events in perspective. It's a good idea to acknowledge your children's fears and concerns. But at the same time, you can reassure them that school shootings are relatively rare and most schools are safe. Remind them that they can tell an adult if they hear or see something scary at school.

Cut back on the news. Try to minimize your children's exposure to media coverage of the shooting, whether on their smartphones or your family TV. Being exposed to a continuous stream of news about the event can make worries and fears worse.

Provide positive distractions. Sometimes having fun and active things to do can help kids get their mind off the tragic news. Invite them on a walk or a bike ride. Play a game or watch a funny movie together.

Keep up your family routine. When everyone eats dinner, does their homework and goes to bed at their regular times, it can provide a sense of normality that reminds your child that their world is still a safe place.

Watch for signs of silent stress. Children may be anxious or scared even when they don't talk about it. They may have mood changes or trouble sleeping, eating or concentrating. If you notice unusual behavior changes in your child after news of a school shooting, try asking about how they're feeling. You may have to check in more than once.

Give lots of love and attention. Extra hugs can go a long way toward helping kids to feel safe and protected. Remind your children how much they're loved every day.

Acknowledge your own feelings. You may be angry, scared or worried right now too. Be kind to yourself. Make time for relaxing activities. Take breaks and deep breaths. Share your feelings and concerns with a friend. Learn what your children's schools are doing to help keep them safer.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; Child Mind Institute; HelpGuide; National Association of School Psychologists

Reviewed 8/11/2022

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