We asked Sarah Lewakowski, a limited-license psychologist and executive director of TCM Counseling in Grand Haven, for advice on how to broach this subject with our kids. Here’s what she had to say:
(1) Speak calmly. Children and teens look to their parents and many times take their lead on how to react. They are sensitive to parents’ reactions — good and bad.
(2) Give the opportunity for them to share, giving them your full attention while listening.
(3) Remind them that there may be rumors that are not true. This is a good reminder for parents to get their information from the school directly, not social media.
(4) Regarding social media: Model good behavior by not perpetuating rumors by posting on social media sites; and try to limit social media, as teens will likely communicate with peers on social media which could increase fear and anxiety.
(5) Reassure them that you have trust in the adults in charge (school and police) and that it is their primary focus to keep everyone safe.
(6) Remind children/teens the importance of immediately reporting to adults threats they either see on social media or hear that concern threats to hurt oneself or others.
(7) Remember that experiencing negative emotions is normal and parents can’t shield children/teens from them, but we can help them with the ability to cope.
(8) There is always counseling available at school or in the community.