Click here to read Momaha.com blog posts about Friday’s shootings.
Momaha.com is The World-Herald’s social networking site for moms. Gregory Snyder, a licensed psychologist at the Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health, joined the site’s live chat Friday afternoon to answer questions about the shootings.
Q. Is there a right or wrong way to talk to your child about such an issue?
A. I think that really depends upon the age of your child. Young children are really unlikely to comprehend what happened, though for school-age children, it is certainly appropriate to use this as a way to reinforce the need for appropriate expression of their feelings and monitoring of their safety.
Q. How do you prepare young children for something like this without making them scared?
A. I would use this opportunity to make sure that your children are made to become aware of their environment and capable of reporting unusual or suspicious activity to adults. The way I will likely address this with my own children (ages 7 and 3) is to focus more so on how they can make sure that they and others at their school can be safe, while at the same time making sure that they also are aware that everyone is going to be ensuring that school personnel will be doing the same thing.
Q. How do we reassure them that this will never happen at their school?
A. It is important simply to voice to them that all of the adults in their lives are going to be making sure that they are safe at all times. Most of the questions that school-age children might ask seek primarily for reassurance that they and their friends are safe and will remain safe. … We need to be strong in our beliefs that are communicated to our children about their safety, even though we might have concerns of our own.
Q. Do you wait for kids to bring up this type of topic, do you bring it up, or just tell them when they are ready you are here for them?
A. For intermediate school age children (grades four to six), they will likely be coming home having talked to others about it, and I would address the facts of what we know and focus on what their school does to make the environment secure. Empathize with their fear and find ways of helping them reach out if possible to those affected by these events. For preschool children, I wouldn’t bring up the events as their comprehension is minimal and might just lead to unnecessary upset on their part, as even the concept of death is foreign to them.
Additional tips offered by area schools:
» Assure children you will take care of them.
» Turn off the TV coverage.
» Spend extra time putting your child to bed.
» Encourage children to ask questions and to discuss, write or draw their feelings.
» Be a good listener.
» Provide fun experiences to relieve tension.
» Develop safety plans and procedures (“What should you do if … ?”)
» Give examples of how they are protected by parents, adults, teachers, police, etc.
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