Expert on how to talk to your children about school shootings, threats
MIAMI - So, how do you talk to your children about recent school shootings, guns on campus or general threats to school?
Dr. Mallika Marshall has some helpful advice for parents and children dealing with the anxiety and feelings created by these events.
Should parents bring up the topic of school shootings or threats or wait until a child comes to them with concerns?
Start the conversation!
But before talking to your child ask yourself how you're feeling. If you're anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed, you can pass those emotions on to your children. You need to be calm so you can help your children feel calm.
Ask your child what they've heard and what they know—maybe see what their friends are saying. Older kids have probably heard something about the recent school shootings or local lockdowns. You want to be the source of accurate information and help provide some context before you ask them how they feel about it and if they have any concerns or fears.
Remember, kids may not be able to put their concerns into words. They may say "I'm sad" or depressed or stressed, so you have to pick up on subtle cues.
What if your child is upset? What should you tell them?
It's okay if they get upset!
You want them to feel comfortable coming to you if something's bothering them. Don't discourage it!
At the same time, you need to reassure your child that they are safe if there is no immediate threat to family or friends. As parents, we know that we can't protect our children from every threat when we're not around, but children need to have a solid sense of security. Remind them that other adults, like teachers and first responders, are around to keep them safe in school.
You also want to keep their routines in place, which gives kids a sense of order and control.
Limit their exposure to the news, which could be overwhelming, or watch the news with them so you can provide context.
How do you know when your child needs more help than you can provide?
Look for the signs!
Trouble concentrating, acting more withdrawn, angry outbursts, recurrent headaches and stomach aches, changes in appetite or sleep, recurrent frightening thoughts or nightmares, and clingy behaviors are all indicators of a child struggling with a mental health issue.
As we know, mental health services are in short supply but don't underestimate the help that pediatricians and teachers, advisors, and school counselors can provide to both you and your child.
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