Tips on talking to children about violent events

WESTFIELD – Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski sent district principals tips on talking to children about violent events following the storming of the Capitol this week.

The guidance, from the National Association of School Psychologists, said that high profile acts of violence can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry about their loved-ones, and parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and talking with them about their fears.

Adults should reaffirm safety, and emphasize that schools are very safe. Let students speak about their feelings, and validate all the reactions to the event. Support the appropriate expression of their feelings, and help to put them in perspective.

Make time to talk

Let children’s questions guide the information provided. Be patient and look for clues that a child wants to talk. Young children may need concrete activities (e.g. imaginative play), and older students may prefer writing or playing music.

Keep explanations developmentally appropriate

For early elementary, provide simple information balanced by assurances of safety. For upper elementary and early middle, answer questions and assist in separating reality from fantasy. For upper middle and high school, emphasize the student role in safety, and how to access support.

Review safety procedures

Help children identify one adult at school and in the community that they can go to if they feel threatened or at risk. Review procedures and safeguards in school and home settings.

Observe children’s emotional state

Some will not express themselves verbally but changes in behavior, appetite or sleep patterns can indicate anxiety or stress. Seek help from a mental health professional for those with more intense reactions.

Maintain a normal routine

Keep a regular schedule to assure and promote physical and mental health. Maintain school work and extra-curricular activities, but do not push children if they seem overwhelmed. Limit TV exposure.

More information may be found at

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