Comforting Children After an Act of Terror

As a national community, we grieve for the individuals lost and injured in the recent attack in Orlando, and our hearts extend to the individuals, families and communities most affected.  When events such as these occur, we search for ways to support our children, students, and ourselves.  Resources from organizations such as National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and American Psychological Association (APA) help to guide us as professionals, parents and community members.  Several ideas for helping to reassure our children of their safety are:

  • Reduce exposure to television and news for the near future to lessen anxiety and intense emotional responses.
  • Be honest and truthful while keeping your emotions calm as you talk with your children. They will look to you to learn how to cope with the events and handle emotions.  They also take their emotional cues from you and may increase their emotions if they observe more elevated emotional responses.
  • Relate that safety is the priority of parents, educators and first responders. Calmly discuss with your children that the event occurred but reinforce their safety by telling them that many people at home, in the school and in the community help to keep them safe.
  • Discuss the roles of people who did so much to provide medical attention and to keep others safe.
  • Focus on describing the compassion that comes from the community and nation in your discussions with your children to reinforce the caring that people so often share with each other.
  • Reinforce that everyone deserves respect and dignity and that diversity is a gift that promotes learning, understanding, problem solving and strength.
  • Avoid stereotypes when discussing events.
  • Truthfully clarify and answer questions your children may have. Follow the answers with statements that calmly relate that they are safe and that they have many adults who focus on their safety.
  • Reinforce that any emotions are acceptable and provide the support and comfort they need.
  • Keep your schedule normal to continue comfortable routines, but allow for emotional expression and flexibility in activities as needed.
  • Make a communication and safety plan for your home and family members to communicate in an emergency if needed. Also make sure you are linked to the emergency communication system in your community.
  • Get to know the safety plan at your children’s school and ensure that you are linked to the communication notification system that your school or district provides.
  • Identify who are safe people children can call or talk to when help is needed.
  • Take time as a family to engage in a compassionate action within your community (ideas might be: volunteer at an organization, help collect funds, food or other necessities for others in your community). This action may not necessarily be related to the current event, but may promote your children’s perceptions of contributing to the community and helping in a positive and compassionate way.

(Gathered from NASP and APA)

There are extremely helpful resources available for parents and educators on the Internet.  Please take time to read them and utilize the suggestions and ideas as needed.  As a community we can support our needs and the needs of our children.  These helpful resources can guide our discussions to allow us comfort and extend that comfort to our children, helping them know we strive to keep them safe at home, school and in our community.

 

 

 

 

 

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