Hospice of Santa Barbara is providing information for those in our community who have questions and concerns related to the recent shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and seven adults.
The organization feels it is important for parents (as well as teachers, family members and caregivers) to manage their own concerns as they also address the questions and fear of children.
» Do not let your fear trickle down to your child. It is easier for children to hear this information if parents remain calm. It is important to remember that children look to their parents to make them feel safe. This is true no matter what age your children are, be they toddlers, adolescents or even young adults.
» Do not let the mass shooting incident built up irrational fears that keep you from sending your child to school or continuing on with your normal activities such as parties, holiday shopping and sports, as soon as possible.
» During times of crisis, it is important to remember that your children may come home seeking the safe feeling they have being there. Help make it a place where your children find the solitude or comfort they need. Plan a night where everyone participates in a favorite family activity.
» It is appropriate to find out about your school’s emergency security protocols. (Click here for Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent David Cash’s letter.)
» Reassure children that there are security plans at their school and they will be protected. Don’t let them stay home from school. It is best to return to the normal routines of your family life, while keeping the lines of communication open. Let your child know that their school is safe and that it’s the teachers’ and officials’ job to keep them safe.
» Let your child know that it is OK to feel upset when something bad or scary happens.
» It’s OK if they want to sleep in a parent’s bed or if they’re a little more clingy for the next few days. They need to be comforted and given emotional support.
» Even though mass shootings have been more frequent in the news during the past 10 to 15 years, it is still a rare thing. Try to reassure your child that they are safe.
» Find times when they are most likely to talk, such as when riding in the car, before dinner or at bedtime. Let your child’s questions be your guide. It’s not necessary to elaborate or give details about the incident if the child is not asking or interested. Ask what they heard and what they’re worried about, and address that first.
» If your children bring it up, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. Talk to your children about their fears. If your child asks you a question about the shooting, answer them truthfully and clearly.
» The child’s age and level of maturity should be taken into consideration when speaking with them about the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
» Let the child know that there are people there to help and protect them including teachers, firefighters and police officers.
» Limit TV viewing related to the shooting incident. The repetition of hearing the news over and over is not going to help a child, especially an anxious child — or an anxious parent.
» They may experience trouble sleeping, difficulty with concentrating on school work or changes in appetite. This is normal for everyone and should begin to disappear in a few months. Encourage your children to put their feelings into words by talking about them or journaling. Some children may find it helpful to express their feelings through art.
» Remind them you are there for them to provide safety, comfort and support. Give them a hug.
Content courtesy of American Psychologists Association, Hospice Care Plus and Hospice of Santa Barbara.
Hospice of Santa Barbara “volunteers” its free professional counseling and care management services to more than 500 children and adults every month who are experiencing the impact of a life-threatening illness, or grieving the death of a loved one. It is also present on seven local middle and high school campuses to work with children and teens who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
For more information about Hospice of Santa Barbara, including volunteer opportunities, click here or call 805.563.8820.
— Kelly Kapaun is a publicist representing Hospice of Santa Barbara.