10 Tips to Help Children Cope with what happen at Sandy Hook Elementary

December 15, 2012

I have been trying to wrap my head around what happen in Newton. Years ago I lost someone dear to me in gun violence. The loss change every fiber of who I was the moment before I  was told of the death. It took me years to recover from the despair I felt from the violence my love one endeared. Like so many I feel for the parents of these innocent children. We have already received a note from our head teacher at our child’s school about the event and how we can all do our best to assure security at schools for our children. I agree with KJ Dell’Antonia from NYT’s Motherlode on how not  to talk to your children about Sandy Hook especially if they are young, I rather my son not start fearing the world at three. As Benedict Carey’s NYT article suggested first find out how much they have heard. My son has not hear anything. I have and continue to speak to him about trusting his teachers, listening to them especially when mom and dad are not with him. For the older kids there will most likely be chatter of what happen in our kids schools, playgrounds and lives since this is such an earth shattering event. Save the Children posted some helpful tips on how we as parents can help our children deal with the tragedy of Newton, Connecticut. 

Save the Children recommends parents, teachers, grandparents and caregivers:

1. Limit television time. While it can be important for adults to stay informed about the situation, television images and reports may be confusing and frightening for children. Watching too many television reports can overwhelm children and even adults. So, limit the number of television reports about the situation you and your children watch.

2. Listen to your children carefully. Try to find out what your child knows and understands about the situation before responding to their questions. Children can experience stress when they do not understand dangerous experiences. Find out what your child knows about the crisis. Then, talk to your child to help him or her understand the situation and ease their concerns.

3. Give children reassurance. Tell children that adults are doing everything they can to protect and help children who have been affected by the tragedy. Also, let them know that if an emergency happens, your main concern would be their safety. Make sure they know they are being protected.

4. Be alert for significant changes in behavior. Caregivers should be alert to any significant changes in children’s sleeping patterns, eating habits, and concentration levels. Also watch for wide emotional swings or frequent physical complaints. If any of these actions do happen, they will likely lessen within a short time. If they continue, however, you should seek professional help and counseling for the child.

5. Understand children’s unique needs. Not every child will experience a disaster in the same way. As children develop, their intellectual, physical and emotional abilities change. Younger children will depend largely on their parents to interpret events; older children and adolescents will get information from various sources, such as friends and the media. Remember that children of any age can be affected by a disaster. Provide them all with love, understanding and support. 

6. Give your children extra time and attention. Children need close, personal attention to know they are safe. Talk, play and, most importantly, listen to them. Find time to engage in special activities with children of all ages.

7. Be a model for your children. Your children will learn how to deal with these events by seeing how you respond. The amount you tell children about how you’re feeling should depend on the age and maturity of the child. You may be able to disclose more to older or more mature children but remember to do so calmly.

8. Watch your own behavior. Make a point of being sensitive to those impacted by the crisis. This is an opportunity to teach your children that we all need to help each other.

9. Help your children return to a normal routine. Children usually benefit from routine activities such as set eating times, bed time, and playing with others. Parents should make sure their children’s school is also returning to normal patterns and not spending a lot of time discussing the disaster.

10. Encourage your children to do volunteer work. Helping others can give children a sense of control and security and promote helping behavior. During a disaster, children and adolescents can bring about positive change by supporting those in need

These tips are also available online at www.savethechildren.org/cope or for download in Spanish atwww.savethechildren.org/ayuda.