While our hearts and minds are still with those in Newtown and the tragic loss of children and teachers, most schools across the country will resume on Monday. This is a good thing, because it’s essential that children fall back into ordinary routines after hearing disturbing and frightening news.
Children find comfort in the familiar, and going back to school and any after-school activities helps build healthy, resilient children. But after this school shooting, some kids might be hesitant about going back to school. Here are some tips for helping kids worried about going back.
Take Your Cues From Your Child
Invite your child to tell you how they feel about going back to school. Don’t ask leading questions, such as “Are you worried about going back to school?” Give your child an opportunity to express what’s on his mind. Assuming you’ve discussed the shooting, you might ask if they expect to discuss it at school, or whether they expect any school activities relating to it.
Give Them Ample Opportunities To Ask Questions
It’s reassuring to children, and helps diminish frightening fantasies, to express what they’re worried about. If your child is thinking that his classroom may no longer be or feel safe, it’s good to listen to those fears.
Acknowledge Their Feelings, But Remain Calm
You can let your child know that you can understand why he might be uneasy. Then you can have a factual conversation about how rare school shootings are. You can also assure them that this tragedy is being investigated carefully, to identify causes and help prevent it from happening again. It’s confidence-building for kids to know that we learn from negative experiences.
Emphasize School Safety
Remind your child that their school is a very safe place, filled with teachers and other adults who love children and have dedicated their lives to helping them. Remind them of the drills and policies already in place to keep students safe.
Give Extra Reassurance
Don’t be surprised if your child is unusually clingy or needy this week, and be prepared to slow down your morning routines and be physically affectionate and comforting.
Listen When They’re Not Talking
Be on the lookout for nonverbal cues indicating anxiety. The 8-year-old who hasn’t asked you about the shooting but who has seen the images, and whose sleep and eating habits have changed after the tragedy may need to have a conversation, even if they aren’t asking in words.
Know Who Else Can Help
Teachers and school counselors will be ready to help children with any concerns they might have while they are in school. Encourage your child to talk to them if he is feeling overwhelmed on the first day back or later in the week. Let him know that it’s fine to bring the subject up again to you or anyone else if he has questions or feelings he wants to share later.
If you think your child has been seriously impacted, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Child Mind Institute online or at (212.308.3118).
A collection of trauma resources for parents and teachers can also be found here.
How are you talking to your children about the tragedy in Connecticut?