NEW: How to Talk to Kids About the Dark Knight Rises Shootings
Saturday, July 21, 2012
If your children don't yet know about the Colorado shootings, should you tell them so that you can give them information that is appropriate to their age/development?
Most children will have heard about the shootings in Colorado because kids today are so connected with each other and media coverage, so it is helpful for parents to think not so much about should you tell them, but how to help them navigate the information they have received and their reactions to it. Of course, very young children who don't have exposure to the media, don't need to be told about this, but parents should be alert for comments or responses. It is important to understand what they are thinking and listen carefully to how they interpret the news, as they may have misunderstandings about what happened and how it will affect them.
Parents should "seize the opportunity" for communication, and not be afraid to talk with their kids about it. Younger children whose media exposure is not limited by parents, may think it is happening over and over, and that can be very disturbing. Parents should watch and discuss TV with children, and ask them what they are hearing from social media technologies. And be alert that these types of events can remind kids who have had other traumatic exposures, bringing past difficult memories back to life for them.
How young is too young for being told about this incident?
The age of the child should be considered when discussing these kinds of events. These days however, it is very difficult to protect children from any kind of information that has gone public. Preschool children may develop fears and exhibit sleep disturbance or regressive behaviors without verbally articulating what they are worried about. School aged children may worry about the safety of themselves or their families and have stomach upsets. Adolescents may be afraid to admit fears, not wanting to appear vulnerable or may engage in some reckless behaviors. Parents can watch for these signs and then respond with support, and discussions about how to stay safe and the role of adults in keeping children safe.
If your child comes to you, distressed after having heard about the shootings, what should you do?
If your child comes to you distressed about the shootings, there are things parents can do:
- Spend time talking with your children and remain open to providing information
- Find time to have these conversations-not necessarily at bedtime
- Make sure kids are eating right, getting enough rest and excercise
- Stick with family rules/routines and keep them a little closer than usual
- Limit media exposure
- Recognize that most of these reactions are time limited
Colorado is far away... do children automatically transfer events in distant places to their own "homes"?
Colorado is far away, but movie theatres are something most of us go to. So although this event occured at a great distance, it is easy for all of us to think it could easily happen to any of us. So that is why we talk about helping each other stay safe, and that we will help each other when events happen that are scary. We want kids to know that there is a community of adults who are there to take care of them.
Should I let my child go to the Dark Knight Rises showings? What if they're scared to go... should I let that be?
Regarding who should go to Dark Knight showings, this will depend on individual families and ages. Certainly if they are scared to go, I encourage not attending until there is a comfort level. The movie will be available to see for quite a while. There is a lot of violence in these movies, and this can trigger feelings of fear and helplessness which can interfere with children's focus at school, or camp other activities which are important to their development.
Should I expect my child's school to be addressing this issue as well?
Schools have different approaches to these issues. It is good to connect with your child's school to see what their plan is to deal with the aftermath of these kinds of events. Parents should know what is being discussed in school, and teachers can benefit from the knowledge if your child is having difficulties. For information, you can contact the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, www.NCTSN.org. Family Service of RI is the only site in RI, providing education, treatment and consultation for children and families. We can be reached at 401-331-1350.
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