TULSA - Children here in Green Country are heading back to school Monday. Many have likely heard or seen coverage of the Connecticut school shootings over the weekend.
Family and Children's Services of Oklahoma has some advice on how to help your child deal with any fears or concerns they may be have about returning to school.
Children don't always react the same as adults do to death and tragedy. What is typical or normal behavior for kids?
Confusion; anger/irritability; nightmares or insomnia; loss of appetite; headaches and stomach aches; regressive behavior – sucking thumb, bed-wetting, renewed sibling rivalry, demonstrating less responsibility; difficulty in school
So is the answer to keep kids in the dark and shield them from all news or information about disasters?
No – and that's not realistic. Kids are going to hear about things at school, via media. Hiding information isn't the answer. It's important to be open and honest, but also to take a different approach and have different expectations based on the age and understanding of your child.
Let's talk then about preschoolers and very young children.
Reassuring them that they are safe now is key – by what we say, by giving extra hugs and physical comfort, and by sticking to routines as much as possible. Routines are comforting and give a sense of order. Answer questions directly and in very clear terms. For example, "passed on" can be confusing… or if you're dealing with the death of a family pet, "put to sleep," isn't clear enough for most young kids. Don't be surprised if a child in this age group shows you he's angry or frightened by showing regressive behavior or by acting things out during her play, or by drawing certain images.
And what about kids in grammar school – how we do help them cope?
Don't provide false reassurance/sugar-coat things because this is an age when children will question you. Monitor what they watch – some news reports might plant scary images in their heads – but don't try to keep them in the dark, because they're going to hear about it on the school playground. Will be able to tell if you're feeling sad/confused/angry, so admit your feelings but also reassure them that your job is to take care of them. And again, sticking to or getting back to routines is good.
What would you recommend as far as teenagers go?
Continue to monitor what information they get from the news and the Internet, and you might use those reports as springboards for conversation. Many teens may try to play down their worries or "act cool," but that doesn't mean they're unfeeling or oblivious. Be honest about any financial, physical or emotional impacts the situation has had on your family directly.
-Be honest and open
-Provide comfort and reassurance
-Maintain daily routines
-Monitor information they receive
If you want more information about answering your child's questions about the Connecticut shootings, or if you're looking for any other kind of parenting advice, call Family and Children's Services at 918-587-9471. You can also visit their website http://www.fcsok.org.