(WYTV) – After any tragedy, parents and other adults may struggle with what they should and shouldn’t say and share with children.
Following two mass shootings this weekend, a handful of parents reached out to WYTV with those same questions. At its core, that’s what our Keeping Kids Safe segment is all about, helping you navigate those hard conversations with your child or teen.
Talking to your child about a tragedy can help him or her understand what’s happened, feel safe and begin to make more sense of the event.
According to the American Psychological Association, instead of shielding children from the dangers, violence or tragedies around us, adults should talk about what’s happening.
“As a parent, it’s important to look for those opportunities when there’s that invitation to have that conversation,” said Dr. Jake Protivnak, chair of Youngstown State’s counseling department.
He says the conversation can simply start with a question, “What have you already heard or know about the event?”
“Listen and provide age appropriate responses,” Protivnak said.
Experts say it’s important for parents and other adults to be honest and provide reassurance.
“It’s important for kids to know that they’re emotionally safe, physically safe and for parents to be able to communicate that,” Protivnak said.
Also, empathize with their feelings. Regardless of their age, let your child know that what they’re feeling is normal and that you too have feelings about the event.
“Model that you’re feeling sad or experiencing some grief for the victims of the tragedy,” Protivnak said.
Protivnak says parents need to pay attention to how tragedy or trauma impacts their child.
In younger kids, you might notice a change in their behavior or sleep patterns, or they may have reoccurring nightmares. In teens, they may be more vocal about their thoughts and feelings or may become distant, trying to avoid the topic.
“If there’s a situation where you notice a significant change in your child and it’s consistent and concerning, it’s important to reach out and seek mental health counseling to help provide that support,” Protivnak said.