When a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut and killed 26 people, mostly young children, he changed the collective psyche of our nation. The grief of those who lost loved ones is unimaginable, especially when you consider how many young lives were cut short in a single community, and how many children will be forever scarred by what they witnessed that day.
Tragedy on this scale reaches far beyond the boundaries of a map. As our country mourns, parents everywhere are grappling with what they should tell their own children, even as they wrestle their own fears. No matter where we live, we can’t shield children from an event of this magnitude. Soon the round-the-clock coverage will end, but the ripple effect for parents and children all around the country has only just begun.
How should parents handle the issue of school shootings with their children? For insight into this emotional and confusing topic, Care2 turned to Ellin Bloch, Ph.D., California School of Professional Psychology-Alliant International University Los Angeles, who specializes in trauma psychology and recovery.
How to Talk to Your Kids About School Shootings: Q & A with Dr. Ellin Bloch
What are the long-term ripple effects of school shootings?
It may depend a great deal on how parents are handling this. When parents get tremendously anxious, the child will pick that up — and kids have big ears — they overhear conversations and have access to TV and social media.
Children of all ages may be anxious about returning to school. Older children have been exposed to other major events in recent years, including shootings in malls, movie theaters, etc., so the larger context must be considered. They may wonder if this can happen anywhere, leading to a feeling of uncertainty and lack of safety. It is important that parents handle this in a relatively calm manner.
Generally, the further away in geographical proximity an event occurs, the less the impact. There is not yet enough research regarding the long-term effect of these events in today’s age of instant and constant information access.