As representative Gabrielle Giffords and other victims struggle for their lives in the wake of yesterday’s unthinkable violence parents need to develop a strategy of talking with their children. Continuous coverage and graphic descriptions of the shocking events is apt to have an impact upon children.
Here, then, are some steps for beginning a most difficult conversation.
1. It is wise to initiate talking with your kids before others do.
2. Reassure your children that they are safe and that you are there for them.
3. Less can sometimes be best. How much does your child know? Do not share more than they need to know or can handle. Parents need to keep explanations and discussion simple and developmentally appropriate. Parents should also be sensitive to individual child’s emotional state and personality. Listen, listen and listen some more; take your cues from your child’s understanding and guestions around the event.
4. Avoid overexposure by limiting TV viewing and uncensored parental discussion.
5. In the aftermath of a traumatic national event it is prudent to maintain normal familial routines.
6. Use this event as an opportunity to reinforce family values around compassion and respect for others and their viewpoints.
7. Find positive messages and meanings. Let your children know that their feelings are shared by many people in our country. Talk about the incredible response by the immediate, national and international community.
8, Keep channels of communication open by encouraging ongoing dialogue.