After the Shooting: What Do You Say to Children When Tragedy Strikes?

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC offers tips.

As the nation tries to return to normalcy after Friday's horrendous school shooting in Connecticut, parents are wondering what to say to their children ... and what not to say.

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC offers tips on helping a child deal with a tragedy.

You can click here to see the hospital's webpage titled "Responding to Children When Tragedy Occurs".

Here are some highlights from the page:

Tips for Helping Your Child

Children need to know there are real dangers in the world – whether it is Anthrax, smallpox, a sniper, plane crashes or children being abducted – but that grown-ups are working hard to make sure they are safe. Grown-ups in their world include parents, teachers, police officers and doctors. Of course, sensible precautions should be part of every child’s learning.

For example, turn off the TV when young children are around. Watching scenes of devastation and anguished adults is not healthy for young children. Provide reassurance that you love your child and that you are here to protect him or her. You can do that without discussing what is happening.

Here are some additional thoughts to consider:

  • Maintain your daily family routines. Anxiety is “contagious”—particularly for young children. It will be helpful for your child to see that your world is not in chaos.
  • Let your feelings show. The mixed feelings you may be experiencing—anger, sorrow, mourning—are likely being felt by your child too. It’s OK for your child to see you expressing what you both are feeling. But if your feelings are out of control, you’ll want to limit how you express them around your child.
  • Talk about it. Let your child know that these sorrowful feelings are normal and to be expected at a time like this.
  • Listen to your child. Ask your child how he or she feels, what seems scary, and what worries him or her the most. And then, where possible, reassure your child about your family’s safety.
  • Limit and monitor TV time. Find other activities to entertain your child—reading, watching videos, and playing games.
  • Spend time with your child. Your presence alone will be comforting and provide an opportunity to talk about what happened. Some families find worshipping together, meditating, or otherwise spending time together to be particularly comforting.
  • Express your love for your child.

For information on "What Should You Say to a Child" and "When to Seek Professional Help", click here for the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC website.


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