School Shooting: How to Help Kids Cope

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American Humane Association Issues Tips Following Shots at Atlanta-area Elementary School

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 20 – Following the firing of shots that led to a frightening emergency evacuation of elementary schoolchildren at McNair Discovery Learning Academy  in the greater Atlanta area, the 136-year-old charity American Humane Association issued these tips for parents and other caregivers to help children cope with the terrible fear and uncertainty created by such an incident.

“Few things are more terrifying than hearing that shots have been fired at a school…now imagine what it is like for a child on the scene,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. “We are incredibly thankful that none of the children were hurt, but parents and teachers should be aware that incidents like this can affect not only the children at the school where a shooting occurred but those around the country who hear about it. Fear and anxiety can come out in ways that are not immediately seen and we as adults need to be there to help them cope.”

To help, Dr. Ganzert and the experts at American Humane Association recommend the following:

  • Keep an eye on children’s emotional reactions. Talk to children – and just as important – listen to them. Encourage kids to express how they feel and ask if anything is worrying them.
  • Regardless of age, reassure them frequently of their safety and security, and reinforce that you, local officials, and their communities are working to keep them safe. Older children may seem more capable, but can also be affected.
  • Keep your descriptions to children simple and limit their exposure to graphic information. Keep to the basic facts that something bad happened but that they are safe. Use words they can understand and avoid technical details and terms.
  • Limit their access to television and radio news reports since young children may have trouble processing such an experience, and sometimes believe that each news report may be a new danger.
  • Be prepared for children to ask if violence can occur to them. Do not lie but repeat that it is very unlikely and that you, their teachers and school staff are there to keep them safe.
  • Watch for symptoms of stress, including clinginess, stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, trouble eating or sleeping, or changes in behavior.
  • If you are concerned about the way your children are responding, consult your doctor, school counselor or local mental health professional.

About American Humane Association

American Humane Association is the country’s first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at www.americanhumane.org today.

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