School shootings have left everyone feeling vulnerable and with worried feelings. But the Monday morning shootings at The Covenant School have hit too close for comfort and many of us feel helpless. Children and adults of all ages have questions and worries. Parents need to be accessible to their kids who have heard about what’s happened and are processing everything in their own time.
Here are tips to help soothe your anxious child and perhaps even yourself. Knowing how to communicate is important to everyone’s well-being. Here are tips from The Family Center with locations in Nashville and Murfreesboro.
How to Help a Child Sort Through Worried Feelings
If your child is displaying concerns, has said something about what’s going on, you can say:
“Tell me about it.”
Give your child room to talk about their fears without interrupting. In addition, know that some children need extra time to process through their thoughts. Do not offer solutions or try to fix it. Children sometimes do better with a set amount of time: “Let’s talk about your worries for 10 minutes.”
“I am here; you are safe.”
Anxiety has a way of making things look worse and feel scarier than when we are not feeling worried.
“How big is your worry?”
Help your child verbalize the size of his worry and to give you an accurate picture of how it feels. Moreover, have your child show you the size of his worry by using arm length (hands close together or arms stretched wide apart). Or, they can draw three circles on a paper (small, medium and large) to choose the one that show how big the worry is.
“What do you want to tell your worry?”
Explain to your child that worry is like an annoying “worry bug.” A worry bug hangs around telling them to be worried. Create a few phrases, then give them permission to talk back to this “worry bug.”
“Can you draw it?”
Many kids cannot express their emotions with words. Encourage them to draw, paint or create their worries on paper.
“Let’s change the ending.”
Anxious children often feel stuck in the same pattern without a way out. Help them see different options by telling their story, but leaving off the ending. Then, create a few new endings. Focus on your child conquering their fears with confidence.
“What other things do you know about (fill in the blank)?”
Some children feel empowered when they have more information about their fear. Grab a book from the library or research together online. How often does your fear happen? How do people stay safe?
Read more parenting stories.