Friday, December 14, 2012

School shootings: APA and PBS Kids suggest ways to help children cope

The situation at work for me today, while producing my regular pages for the Lake County Record-Bee, is to post links to headlines as they become available about a school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

It's an emotional time; beyond the tragedy of the shooting itself I feel anger toward a publication that I ordinarily respect: while details of the shooting still emerged, Mother Jones used the tragedy to promote a September investigation by Mark Follman correlating the availability of guns in society with an increase in mass shootings.

Regardless of where a person stands on the issue, the timing was offensive to me. It seemed a grotesque exploitation of children's deaths. I expect better of Mother Jones.

Of far greater benefit, the American Psychological Association shared tips for helping children make sense of shootings. Similarly, PBS Parents offered strategies for talking with (and listening to) children.

There is a strong compulsion right now, to post and connect on social media regarding the unfolding tragedy. But give some thought while sharing links, if and how what you share is of benefit.

Evening update: I wanted to share some highlights among coping tips offered by the APA but instead decided first to a) print out copies for my co-workers and b) act on one of the suggestions offered and take a break from exposure to news coverage of the tragedy.

I spent the remainder of my lunch break outside -- as far from headlines and social media as I could possibly get.

The APA emphasizes that in order to help your child, you have to take care of yourself: 
"Be a model for your children on how to manage traumatic events. Keep regular schedules for activities such as family meals and exercise to help restore a sense of security and normalcy."
Perhaps most significantly, the APA emphasizes that you should let your child talk:

"Find times when they are most likely to talk: such as when riding in the car, before dinner, or at bedtime.
"Start the conversation; let them know you are interested in them and how they are coping with the information they are getting.
"Listen to their thoughts and point of view; don't interrupt--allow them to express their ideas and understanding before you respond.
"Express your own opinions and ideas without putting down theirs; acknowledge that it is okay to disagree.
"Remind them you are there for them to provide safety, comfort and support. Give them a hug."

This advice is just as valid for adults. Find ways to talk about tragedy, whether through writing, private or otherwise, calling a radio show or sharing conversation with a friend.

Read the APA's suggestions at www.apa.org/helpcenter/aftermath.aspx. Read PBS Kids' suggestions at www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/news/talking.html.


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