Tips On Discussing A Traumatic Event With Your Child

Note to parents

How much to say……

     There was just a horrific incident that happened in another state in an elementary school.  This is just another unfathomable act of violence that we as parents need to try to, first cope with our own feelings regarding the incident and then, second decide how and how much to tell our kids. 

     My knowledge of kid’s development tells me that sometimes hearing of an event like this, they may either, not really connect with what it means or the opposite which is take on the idea that it will happen to them at their school.  As parents, it’s our job to listen, reassure and then reassure again.  If your child has fears, take time to listen to them and then help them feel safer by talking about the adults that make school safe and how that is part of why there are classroom rules, playground rules and rules for the office etc.  This conversation may need to happen more than once. 

     If your child begins to have nightmares, stomach aches, or starts to have extreme emotions: like crying a lot or getting really angry, and it seems to not be diminishing, it may be time for you to call someone for some help.  Your school can give you names of counselors your child can talk to if that is a route that you may want to take. 

     A couple of ideas….   First monitor what they are seeing on the news.  That is important because the news tends to talk about traumatic events in detail and for a long time after the event occurs.  Make sure you are aware when children are around when you are having adult conversation regarding possibly traumatic information.  Also make sure to check in with your child regularly about their school day.  They may hear some information from another student and that information may be scary and inaccurate.  Kids like to say things sometimes to shock or to gain attention.  They also say things that may seem inappropriate when they are uncomfortable.  So check in with your kids to make sure they are not holding in something that is scary and uncomfortable and not knowing how to cope with it.  Last and very important, touch and reassurance.  We don’t have all the answers.  When an event such as this happens, we are all confused and in pain.  And… most times kids don’t want the answer; they just want to be held. 


Written by: Keppi Serpa, LMFT, Kinship Center

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