One reason why these types of incidents are so upsetting is that they make us feel out of control. If we do all the correct things, we expect our children to be safe. It makes us question that which we once considered safe. But the fact is that these incidents are incredibly rare, and have actually been declining over the past 20 years. The downside is that low frequency events such as these are essentially unpredictable. There’s no way to predict when/where something this rare will occur. While I was working at The City College of New York, I gave lectures to faculty and staff about how to prevent violence on campus. Everyone is concerned about school shootings.
Parents should be on alert for changes in sleeping, eating or activity levels. Anxiety could surface in the form of avoidant or obsessive behaviors, especially in kids with a history of anxiety.
Here are ways that you can increase your sense of control, while reducing feelings of anxiety and fear:
1. Reduce a child’s exposure to the event by not repeatedly watching the news.
2. Talk to your child about the event, if the topic arises naturally. Listen to their fears; don’t try to fix. Validate why they might be afraid and then explain that such events are incredibly rare. Reassure that he/she is safe now, and that police are always available. Older teens will want to discuss the event in more detail.
3. Perform charity work or send a card to the families directly affected. Being active will reduce feelings of helplessness.
Written by Joshua Rosenthal, PsyD