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Children and Mass Violence

May 19, 20231 min read

After any act of mass violence, it’s common to feel shaken and to struggle to know how to help your children. Following are some tips for helping your children manage their distress.

Talk to your children. Let them ask questions and tailor your information to their chronological and/or developmental age.

Acknowledge fears or concerns they have. Remind them that the adults in their lives will do everything possible to keep them safe.   

Keep home a safe place. Monitor adult conversations. Limit their exposure to media. Make time for consistent family activities.   

Check in often and monitor for signs of fear or stress. Trouble sleeping, difficulty with concentration, changes in appetite, and changes in mood may occur. This is not uncommon and will typically dissipate over one to two months if no other traumatic events occur. Encourage them to express their feelings in words, art, storytelling, etc. “Red flags” that could indicate a need for more specialized intervention include significant separation anxiety, nightmares/issues sleeping, anger/irritability, risky behavior such as alcohol/drug use or careless driving, and self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

Maintain optimism as appropriate. Talk about heroic efforts of law enforcement/first responders. For older children, talk about ways to affect positive change through school, etc. or even through policy change.

Take care of yourself so you can take care of your children. Model how to manage traumatic events. 

Help is available. Reach out to your children’s primary care provider or to any mental health professional if needed.

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