How to Talk to Children About the Texas School Shooting: Guidelines for Parents and Educators

Chai Lifeline is devastated by the horrific elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and mourns the tragic and senseless deaths of 19 children and two teachers. If you or someone you know is struggling to cope in the aftermath of this terrible event, we encourage you to contact our crisis support services at 855-3-CRISIS or crisis@chailifeline.org.

Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox, director of Chai Lifeline’s Crisis Services, has issued the following guidelines to help parents and educators talk to their children during times of crisis.

When a shooter guns down innocent children and teachers in a school, it is only natural for us to react both within ourselves and with regards to our own children. Crisis situations bring with them a mix of strong emotions including fear, confusion, and feelings of helplessness. Addressing the worries of children can be a great challenge, yet children need reliable information. It is far better for a child to hear what is going on from a trustworthy source such as a teacher or parent than to hear rumors on the playground. Our job as adults is to share adequate information with children and to help them assimilate the information in terms they understand. Children also need a sense of security, particularly during these times of uncertainty, and must have a place to express their feelings. Thus, an open discussion is invaluable during this time.

Below are some general guidelines on how to talk to your children:

Accurate Information

1. Allow the children to tell you what they have heard.

2. Tell them as much about the situation as the child is interested in knowing. You do not need to provide all the details. Often the broad outlines are sufficient

3. Allow plenty of time and space for questions over the ensuing days.

4. Answer all questions even if they are difficult or frightening.

5. Answer all questions truthfully. Again, this doesn’t mean that you need to overwhelm the child with detail.

6. Listen and respond without trying to take over or lead the conversation.

7. Limit children’s exposure to the media.

8. Be willing to provide explanations over and over again. Repetition helps the child understand the complexities of the world and make him feel more secure.

9. It is okay and even advisable to say, “I don’t know.”

Feelings

1. Encourage children to disclose what they are thinking about and feeling. Do not interpret or put words into their mouths.

2. Convey the message that feelings of fear and anger which your child may have are perfectly normal and acceptable.

3. There is no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed of these or any other feelings.

4. It is all right to share some of our own feelings with children but be careful not to overwhelm them with very strong feelings.

Actions

1. Offer children constructive involvement such as engaging in tehilim or prayer.

2. Maintaining regular routine is very helpful in creating and maintaining a sense of security.

3. Talking with a designated adult such as teacher or rabbi, can help students feel that they have a role in helping, and will help comfort them.

4. Teachers and parents are encouraged to seek guidance from those more informed including competent mental health professionals in the school and the community as well as Chai Lifeline staff.

If you are in need of further guidance or support, contact Chai Lifeline at 855-3-CRISIS or crisis@chailifeline.org. Learn more about Chai Lifeline Crisis Services at www.chailifeline.org/crisis.

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If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire community to help parents raising a child with a life-threatening illness or chronic condition. Here's where you'll find a community of information, support, strength, and friendship -- all facilitated by Chai Lifeline, the international children's health support organization.

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