Monday, December 24, 2012
Reassure your children following Sandy Hook shootings
It is not a stretch to say that almost everyone in the state and our nation is shocked and saddened by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown that killed 20 children and six adults.
These events can be frightening for children and parents, especially when they occur relatively close to our own community. While young children may not fully grasp the intensity of the event, questions arise and our children need to be comforted and have their questions answered.
While we are all trying to regain our strength and continue to support our loved ones, here are few tips that might help parents and guardians:
• Reassure your children that they are safe in their home and in their school. Emphasize that schools are safe and secure.
• Make time to talk with your children and validate their feelings, whatever those feelings may be. Explain that all feelings are ok when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings and help put them into perspective. Children may not always express themselves readily. Watch for clues, for example clinging more than usual, and encourage them to talk.. Observe for any changes in behavior, sleep pattern and appetite.
• Keep your explanation appropriate to the age of the child. Elementary school kids need brief, simple information and lots of reassurance. Middle school children will need more details about whether they are truly safe and what is being done to keep them safe. High school students will need to be aware of their environment and follow safety guidelines. They should communicate any strange activity or possible loophole in the security that they see to appropriate authorities.
• Review safety procedures, including following guidelines and knowing whom to go to when they feel threatened.
• Limit exposure to continuing media coverage. Often in cases like this, media can inundate us with graphic images that can be disturbing for children as well as adults.
• Maintain a normal routine. Keeping a regular schedule can be reassuring. Encourage children to eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. Ensure that they keep up with their school work and extracurricular activities, but monitor for any sense of being overwhelmed.
If you are concerned or need further information, your pediatrician can offer further suggestions and resources.
Dr. Ravi Prakash is a member of the Backus Hospital Medical Staff and a private practice pediatrician. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.backushospital.org/backus-blogs or e-mail Dr. Prakash or any of the Healthy Living columnists at firstname.lastname@example.org.