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The Montgomery Police Department recognizes the difficulties all families are facing when talking to their children about the tragic events that have recently occurred in our world. While there is no perfect answer or equation to bring comprehension of these horrific acts, the following tips were designed to help facilitate understanding within our youth.
• Make time to talk. Let the child/teen’s questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. • Reassure children that they are safe. • Limit television viewing or adult conversation regarding the school shooting.• Emphasize that schools are very safe. • Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are OK when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately. • Early elementary students need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them.• Upper elementary and early middle school students will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools. • Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools.• Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home.• Maintain a normal routine.• Observe children’s emotional state. o Some children may not express their concerns verbally. o Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. o Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.• Answer your child’s questions honestly, in an age-appropriate way. Talking to them about their worries and concerns is the first step to help them feel safe and begin to cope with the events occurring around them. What you talk about and how you say it does depend on their age, but all children need to be able to know you are there and listening to them.• Keep home a safe place. Children, regardless of age, often find home to be a safe haven when the world around them becomes overwhelming.