After the shooting at UVA we posted some information on social to quickly help parents and families through our immediate crisis. We are hopeful that these stories will never have to be returned to, but we are posting them here in case they can help in the future. Take care of each other.
Talking to Kids About the UVA Shooting by Amanda Sovik-Johnston, Ph.D.
You all, lots of parents in Charlottesville and Albemarle (and honestly, the world) are scared about what to say to their children today. We all imagined what we would do in this instance but never hoped we would have to do it. Almost all schools are canceled so here is a general script
1) Let your children know they aren’t going to school because of a shooting at UVA. Be honest– your kids will find out the truth from classmates or older siblings. You want to be the person who gives children the most organized version of the story and in a way that feels safe.
Say something along the lines of, “a few people died.” Again, not too many details but enough to let them know that you are telling them the truth.
2) Let them know they are safe (even if it feels hard to believe it sometimes).
3) Be matter of fact and calm. Express your own emotions in a calm and controlled way. “I am scared, too. It is really really sad.”
For those with older kids, you can let a little more emotion in because that is true, but not enough to make your kids feel like they are taking care of you.
4) If you are having a hard time staying calm, take a walk or deep breaths before you talk to your kids. Your calm will allow your kids to be able to process their own feelings in a safe way. Your calm will also enable them to develop the story you give them as their baseline of understanding for what happened. This way, if they hear a story tomorrow, it will be incorporated into YOUR safe story, not a scary story.
5) If you talk to adults (or to older kids in a different way) about it throughout the day, make sure your kids aren’t near. This is scary for us all so of course you are going to talk to help yourself. Remember to be mindful.
PS- I just told my kids one by one and asked the older kids to be mindful about how they talk about it with the younger kids. They all noted that they were scared, which I normalized and said I was scared, too. One of them talked about his math test today, “I wouldn’t be able to concentrate because I’d be worried and I want to do well.” Just thought that line sort of summed up what these kids are experiencing…
And here is our Podcast, “How Do You Help Kids Feel Safe in a World that Feels Increasingly Unsafe.”