Talking to your Student about Violence
Below are resources that may be helpful to you and your family when discussing school and community-based tragedies:
- Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
- Los Angeles County Anti-Hate Campaign
- Parent Guidelines for Helping Youth After the Recent Shooting
- How to Talk to Kids About Violence, Crime and War
- Helping Children Cope with Frightening News (Child Mind Institute)
- Coping in the Aftermath of a Shooting (American Counseling Association)
- Trauma and Disaster Mental Health (American Counseling Association)
- Break the news: When something happens that will get wide coverage, don’t delay telling your children about what’s happened: It’s much better for the child if you’re the one who tells them. You don’t want them to hear from some other child, a television news report, or the headlines on the front page of the New York Post. You want to be able to convey the facts, however painful, and set the emotional tone.
- Take your cues from your child: Invite them to tell you anything they may have heard about the tragedy, and how they feel. Give them ample opportunity to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions about upsetting details. Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.
- Be reassuring: Talking about death is always difficult, but a tragic accident or act of violence is especially tough because of how egocentric children are: they’re likely to focus on whether something like this could happen to them. So it’s important to reassure your child about how unusual this kind of event is, and the safety measures that have been taken to prevent this kind of thing from happening to them. You can also assure him that this kind of tragedy is investigated carefully, to identify causes and help prevent it from happening again. It’s confidence-building for kids to know that we learn from negative experiences.
- Help children express their feelings: In your conversation (and subsequent ones) you can suggest ways your child might remember those she’s lost: draw pictures or tell stories about things you did together.
- Be developmentally appropriate: Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Instead, try to answer your child’s questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters. Difficult conversations like this aren’t over in one session; expect to return to the topic as many times as your child needs to come to terms with this experience.
Be available: If your child is upset, just spending time with them may make them feel safer. Children find great comfort in routines, and doing ordinary things together as a family may be the most effective form of healing.
I also want to take this time to remind everyone of the resources available to you and students through LA County and National Resources:
- 24/7 LA County Mental Health Support: (800) 854-7771: The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) supports the wellbeing of our County residents and communities. LACDMH’s Helpline is available 24/7 to provide mental health support, resources and referrals at (800) 854-7771.
- Crisis Text Line: Text “LA” to 741741: Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free crisis support via text message.
- Trevor Project Lifeline: (800) 788-7386: The TrevorLifeline provides support to LGBTQ youths and allies in crisis or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-8255: Connect with a crisis center closest to your location. Your call will be answered confidentially by a trained crisis worker who will listen empathetically, work to ensure that you are safe, and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area.
- City of El Monte Police Department: (626) 580-2100 or dial 911