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Processing Gun Violence with Children

This is a scary time we are living in and our children have a front-row seat to the ugly and evil things in our world. It is less than 24 hours from the most recent mass shooting, where 19 kids and two adults were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. This is less than a week after ten Black shoppers at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY, and Taiwanese Americans were targeted at church, leaving one person dead and five people injured.




Many of us are feeling a range of feelings; outrage, confusion, anxiety, sadness....And our children have the same feelings. This blog is to help any adult who is struggling with helping their children process their feelings when these mass shooting events occur.


First, here are some signs your child may be struggling with anxiety following a mass shooting event:

  • Changes in their sleeping or eating

  • Avoiding school or other public areas

  • Difficulty separating from caregivers

  • Tantruming, crying spells

  • Shutting down or emotional numbness (an inability to feel or communicate feelings)

  • Daydreaming/easily distracted

  • Physical complaints- stomachaches, headaches, etc

There are some play-based activities you can do to help your child process any anxious or sad feelings both before and after school or being in public.


Mindfulness

A core principle of mindfulness is to be in the present moment. This is very helpful for kids with anxiety who are worried about things that have happened in the past or what will happen in the future. Since we can't predict the future, we can help children be mindful that they are safe in the moment. You can practice mindfulness with kids using:

  • Cosmic Kids Yoga which has fun yoga videos for kids and short mindful moments they can utilize before or after school to decompress

  • Progressive muscle relaxation is a useful skill where kids can identify and use the muscle groups that feel the best to help relieve tension

  • Zentangle, which is an art activity that can help put a person in a meditative state. I like to call it "doodling with a purpose". Here's a video that can help you introduce that activity to your child.



Worry monsters

This is an art activity you can do with your child using a shoebox, construction paper, scissors, and art materials (glitter, pipe cleaners, googly eyes etc). Children can then feed their worries to the monster whenever they need to.



Communication journals

Start a journal where you and your child can communicate with each other. Be honest and open about your own feelings to help validate theirs. This can be a safe place for emotional expression, while also giving you more insight into if your child is struggling emotionally and mentally. You can also use the following journal prompts to get the conversation going:

  • How does it make you feel to hear about people being hurt?

  • Do you have any worries at school that someone may come and hurt you?

  • Who are some staff or teachers you can talk to at school if you feel upset or overwhelmed by your feelings?

  • What can I do to help you feel safe?



Calm down kits

Talk to your kid about things that help them calm down when they are upset. This may include music, using a fidget spinner, or playing with slime. Then you would have a box that holds their items or something that reminds them of it (for example, if your child needs a hug to calm down, you can take a picture of you giving them a hug and keep it in their box. Then if they are feeling overwhelmed, they can go to their box and take whatever they need to help themselves feel better.


Fidget box

This is a box that can house all of the fidgets your child can use at home and school when they are dealing with anxious feelings. Fidgets include bubble wrap, fidget spinners, Koosh balls, and grounding stones and crystals. Fun and Function is a great website to get fidgets, or Pinterest for DIY fidget ideas




Overall, have patience. Patience with yourself as you manage your own worries and feelings of sadness, while also understanding our children have the same worries and fears. And don't hesitate to take some of these ideas to help you process your own feelings. If you think your child (or you) are in need of mental health support, you can find therapists at:




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