The terrible acts against children in a Connecticut school this December are the subject of discussion and worry for adults and children alike.
For parents there is the immediate concern about how much to let children see and hear of this attack within a school and how to explain, in an age appropriate way, why this happened and reassure children of their safety.
Many children of Primary School age will be aware of the attack, through overhearing adult conversation, listening to the radio or seeing TV reports. Even if they are not openly asking you about it they may have many questions going around in their heads. Such as whether their own school is safe and worries about death and dying in general.
It is important to give your children a chance to talk over their worries. You could find some quiet time to give a simple explanation of what happened and explain that the attack was far away and your child is safe. For older children there may be questions about why this occurred, this could be your opportunity to talk about respect and caring for one another and give your own ideas on right and wrong. Talk about what could lead someone can hurt another person, how rare this is and peaceful ways that people normally use to express their feelings.
Monitor what your child sees and hears of the attack, make sure their exposure to the news is brief and that they are not seeing any distressing or inappropriate footage.
Younger children’s sense of geography is unclear so they can fear that the attack was nearby. News reports can make the attack appear very vivid and real so children jump to the conclusion that it is close and their own home or school may be affected. Plenty of reassurance that they are safe and that the attack was far away can help.
Your children may want to take some action about the attack. Drawing, writing poems and letters can be ways children express their hopes and dreams for kindness between people. There may be opportunities for your family to express condolences or send messages of support to those directly affected by the attack.
As always, listening to your child without interrupting or avoiding the subject is a wise strategy no matter what is concerning them.