Published on December 02, 2021

Tips on Talking to Your Children When A Crisis Occurs

Mother Talking With Child

Earlier this week, a school shooting occurred at Oxford High School. This tragedy may have parents wondering how to speak with their children about what happened as well as how to help manage grief, stress and mental health that’s associated with a trauma or crisis.

  • Validate what your child is feeling. Give your child the space to be heard and the opportunity to express their feelings. Feelings of fear, nervousness and trauma are common in these scenarios, and it’s important to validate your child’s feelings. Tell them that it’s okay to feel scared or nervous rather than telling them that they have nothing to worry about.
  • Stay calm and use reassurance to help your child feel safe. Explain to your child what precautions are being taken for their safety. For example, remind them that school visitors enter through a security door.
  • Use simple, age-appropriate language. Listen to the questions that your children are asking, and find out what they already know so that you can correct any misconceptions. This is especially important if you have older children who may have seen the news or gotten information from social media.
  • Return to routine as soon as you can. Kids thrive on routine, schedules and consistency. Returning to your normal routine as soon as you feel comfortable will help with feelings of balance and normalcy and will help with feelings of fear.
  • Read, listen and share with your child. Look for children’s books that discuss grief and trauma. Dramatic readings of children’s books can often be found on YouTube for you to experience without buying. There are books and videos for children of all ages to help identify and normalize how they might be feeling as well as offer suggestions for parents who want to support their children and help them work through their emotions in a healthy way. 
  • Ask for help if you need additional support. If you feel as though your child is experiencing anxiety or you’re noticing things such as not wanting to return to school, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, or other behavioral changes, don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you or your child need support.

Robin L. Greiner, L.M.S.W., is a behavioral health therapist at MyMichigan Health.

MyMichigan Health offers comprehensive behavioral health services from outpatient one-on-one therapy, intense outpatient program to meet the need of older adults, to partial hospitalization program and inpatient services. A complete list of services can be viewed at www.mymichigan.org/mentalhealth.