Published on December 07, 2021

Tips on Talking to Your Children When A Crisis Occurs

Robin L. Greiner, L.M.S.W.
Behavioral Health Therapist at MyMichigan Health

With the recent school shooting at Oxford High School, parents may be wondering how to speak with their children about what happened. With a tragedy such as this, parents may also need guidance on how to help their child manage their grief, stress and overall mental health that’s associated with a trauma or crisis.

“First, it’s so important to validate what your child is feeling,” said Robin L. Greiner, L.M.S.W., a behavioral health therapist at MyMichigan Health. “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. Tell your children that it’s okay to feel scared or nervous rather than telling them that they have nothing to worry about.”

Greiner also suggests that parents stay calm, use reassurance to help their child feel safe and use simple, age-appropriate language when talking with the children. Explain to your children what precautions are being taken for their safety. For example, remind them that school visitors enter through a security door.

“If you have older children who may have seen the news or gotten information from social media, listen to the questions they are asking and find out what information they know so that you can correct any misconceptions,” continued Greiner. “Kids thrive on routine, schedules and consistency, so I also recommend returning to routine as soon as you can. Returning to your routine, when you feel comfortable, will help with feelings of balance, normalcy and fear.”

Greiner also recommends that reading, listening and sharing with your children are also important after a traumatic event occurs. “There are many children’s books that discuss grief and trauma as well as dramatic readings of children’s books on YouTube for you to experience without buying.”

One last tip that Greiner suggests to parents is to 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,” she said.

MyMichigan Health offers comprehensive behavioral health services from outpatient one-on-one therapy, intense outpatient programs 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.