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How to help children cope with school-related tragedies

PHOENIX — Yet another tragedy occurred on a school campus on Friday, this time here in Arizona. Two 15-year-old female students were found dead, with a single gunshot wound, at Independence High School in Glendale, Arizona.

When these situations unfold, parents are faced with the task of finding a way for their kids to cope, rationalize or at least come to terms with the events.

“First and foremost, acknowledge their feelings,” DeAnn Davies, director of Early Childhood Outreach for Summit Healthcare, said. “Tell them it’s OK to feel that way.”

Davies said this not only applies to kids who had to deal with the lock-down scenario on Independent High School’s campus, but also kids of all ages who are learning of the ordeal and may be worried for their own safety.

However, Davies said it is important for parents to be sensitive to each child’s developmental status, she said.

“At what age do you share what, is what parents usually ask me,” she said. “Know your child and know what your child can manage.”

Even young children can pick up on something that may be bothering their parents, Davies said, so be careful what news you have on and if your child is able to see or hear it.

“Be sensitive that the child is kind of taking all of the tragedy in through their body,” she said. “Where they may not be able to communicate that with you verbally, they’re showing you through their behavior.”

Additionally, nowadays information on local tragedies are immediately available through social media and most kids will hear about it on their cell phone, so how should parents find out what their children know?

“Ask them what it is that they’ve heard, ask them what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling,” Davies said.

Davies said parents who have uncovered what their children know in relation to tragic events should reassure them of their safety here at home.

“Let them know that there is nothing wrong with the child and that they’re very healthy, and that they anticipate (the child) is going to live a long and healthy life,” she said. “And that even if something did come up, that the parents would be there for them.”

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