What is important at these times is to help reassure the children that they are safe. This is hard to do when they see the news reports and hear adults or other children talking about the problems. Just how safe are the children, it is hard to reassure them completely as no one can guarantee that something like this will not occur in their school. It is important to be honest with the children but not to overly frighten them either. There is a fine line between telling them that everything is being done that can be done, to keep them safe; and at the same time telling them that they need to tell an adult if there is anything that makes them uncomfortable, anyone talking inappropriately to them or inappropriately touching them.
Parents know their own children and what they can say to them. It is important to stay calm and not let them know how frightened they may be after an incident in their school or one nearby. Ask the child what they understand about the incident and ask if they have any questions. Answer them honestly without giving a lot of details and tell them to come to talk if they have any questions or concerns.
If a child feels as if everything is out of control and they feel unsafe it will show in their behavior. That is why it is so important to give them an opportunity to talk if they want to. But be aware that just because they do not want to talk then, they may still have feelings inside they do not know how to express in words.
Behaviors that are unusual for your child should be addressed and discussed. These can include a range of behaviors from withdrawal and isolation to acting out and being aggressive. Any unusual behavior should be discussed with the child so as to ascertain what is going on in their minds.
In discussing these tragedies, many parents have indicated how frightened they are themselves and describe “the hair on the back of their neck standing up” and feeling helpless to keep their children safe; having to depend on school personnel and security, if available, to take care of their children. Many parents describe paralyzing fear and anxiety. So if the adults feel this way, one can imagine how the children are feeling and they do pick up on their parent’s feelings too, causing them more concern and anxiety.