Today's tragic events at the Sandy Hook School will require a lot of caring for the surviving young people. Below is a list of my advice on how to cope with trauma involving youth.
- Share any information you have about the deaths in a direct, honest and age appropriate way. Provide a safe, open and non-judgmental atmosphere where children can share their feelings about the death and ask questions.
- Talk about common grief responses children might have, such as feeling sad, angry, anxious, difficulty concentrating or sitting still.
- Reassure children that they still live in a safe and predictable world and that school shootings are very rare. Let them know that they are not in danger, the shooter has died, and that the school is a safe place to return to.
- Children often regress following a traumatic death, such as this one. They may become more clingy, need to sleep with a nightlight, teddy bear or blanket, or wet the bed. Be tolerant and non-judgmental of these behaviors and recognize that children will need a lot of reassurance and love at this difficult time.
- Because children have experienced an out of control event, it is important to maintain familiar routines and structure in the child's life to the degree that it is possible
- Parents can serve as role models for grieving by expressing their thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. However, parents should be aware that intense parental distress can lead children to become reluctant to talk openly about the death, for fear of upsetting their parents.