How Parents Can Respond in the Wake of Violence

Helping Children Cope with Traumatic Events
Mom holds her son's hand

In today's world, when we see violent events unfold in both metropolitan and rural communities, it reminds us that they can happen at any place and any time. Parents can help their children cope with traumatic events when they occur, whether close to home or far.

5 Suggestions to Help Kids Cope

1. Talk to your children

Try to explain what has happened in order to help ease their fears. Reassure them that, although these are horrible events, many people are working to keep them safe. Encourage your children to ask questions. Explain that emergencies can happen at any time in any place, but there are systems in place for protection. Schools have crisis plans for their safety, and police officers are specially trained to help them. Remind children to be cautious and teach them how to identify trustworthy individuals.

2. Have personal discussions

Encourage children to talk about what is upsetting them. Personal discussions are the best way to share information. Find time to communicate with your children during dinner or bedtime. Focus your discussions on what they want to share with you. Listen to their thoughts and feelings and try to understand what they are saying. Allow them to express their fears and ideas. Talk honestly about your own feelings and express your opinion without putting theirs down. Make them understand that you are there for them.

3. Limit news coverage

Try to limit exposure of the event details to young children. Continue reassuring that schools, communities, and law enforcement are working really hard to prevent any future events from affecting them.

4. Be aware of warning signs

Signs that your child or teenager is struggling emotionally may include refusing to attend school, not wanting to go anywhere, having nightmares, headaches and stomachaches. There could also be signs of diminished school performance, loss of appetite, and diminished relationship with others. They may become more irritable. They may have trouble with their behavior, concentration, and attention. Take advantage of professional help, like school counselors and social workers.

5. Take care of yourself

You need to take care of yourself so you can take care of your children. Try to maintain normalcy at home. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider talking to someone who can help. Do not hesitate to find a mental health professional to help you guide your children through the current crisis.

The Village Family Service Center's trained counselors can help parents and children who are struggling emotionally. Call 1-800-627-8220 or request an appointment online.

*Originally posted March 2022.

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