It’s a Scary World

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Gunfire from a high-rise hotel rains down on a crowd at an open air country music festival on the Las Vegas strip.

The horror that played out late Sunday night is a nightmare you hope would never happen. If you’re the parent of a young child, all your protective instincts are on high alert. But when everyone is talking about the shootings, you can’t shield children from hearing about it. How in the world do you explain such random violence to children, and keep their natural fears from overwhelming them?

We posed these questions to Loren Walsh, MA, at Jewish Community Services, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, who shared excellent advice for parents.

Listen: Violent incidents like the Las Vegas shooting that happen in places we normally perceive as safe (concerts, movie theatres, schools, stores) are very frightening to children. You first need to find out exactly what fears your children have.This means listening carefully, without jumping in to interpret or reassure them. Let them express what they are scared of in their own words.

After a violent event, children most often worry that it could happen again anywhere, not only in the kind of place where it just happened. They also want to know: “Will it happen to us?”

Every child reacts differently to fear or trauma, so talk to each of your children to learn what’s on their minds. Don’t dismiss or minimize their fears. Children also observe our reactions, and they’ll be more upset if we “lose our cool” or convey our own anxiety when discussing a violent event with them, or if they overhear us talking about it on the phone. How we portray the event affects how our kids react.

Reassure: Without dwelling on the details with a young child, it’s fine to acknowledge that the Las Vegas shooting is frightening, and that we are sad for the victims, their families and the community. Tell your child that, yes, this did happen, and there are bad people in the world, but such occurrences are rare. Explain that many people are working to keep us safe, including parents, teachers, police, and neighbors. Be available to your child more than usual during the days after the incident to provide comfort and reassurance.

Here are some tips:

Take control of the information your child is getting and from what sources. All kinds of partial, inaccurate, and skewed information swirls around after a violent incident. Kids pick it up at school, on the playground, in playmates’ homes, as well as in the media.  Click to read entire article.

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