Dr. Phil & Dr. Travis: Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
The Doctors opened on a very somber note, as the nation is still reeling from the events of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. In Dr. Travis Stork’s opinion, the tragedy was “the worst school shooting in U.S. history” because so many victims were young children. Dr. Travis was joined by Dr. Phil to talk more about the Sandy Hook shooting, as well as how parents should discuss this very difficult topic with their children. See Dr. Phil’s tips in the video below, and read on for full details.
Dr. Phil: How to Talk to Children About Sandy Hook Shooting
“You try to wrap your mind around it, but there’s just no way to do it,” Dr. Phil said. When a tragedy is so shocking and senseless, it’s nearly impossible to understand why it happened in the first place. However, children are going to have many questions about what happened, and parents should be ready to answer them as best they can.
Dr. Phil has been speaking with many parents from Newtown, who are now wondering what to say to their children who thankfully have survived. These children know that some of their friends and teachers have died, but they probably don’t understand the tragedy entirely. Here are some helpful tips on how to speak to children about the Sandy Hook shooting.
1. Be Honest
Dr. Phil said that children under the age of six don’t really understand death or tragedy. Therefore, if your child is very young, you may be able to hide what happened from him or her. However, if your children is older and/or aware, honesty is essential. Don’t speak in euphemisms or sugar-coat anything, while still being age appropriate.
2. Don’t Overshare
While you should be honest with your child, definitely don’t overshare. Answer your child’s questions honestly but basically.
3. Limit Media Exposure
Watching the news and media coverage of horrific events can be very traumatizing for a child. Make sure you limit your child’s exposure to the media, including television and the internet. When you do watch the news, make sure that you are with your child and are ready to answer his or her questions. Emphasize the fact that the tragedy is now over, and that he or she is safe.
The Drs: Sandy Hook Parent Richard Wilford
Dr. Travis and Dr. Phil were then joined on the phone by Richard Wilford, whose seven-year-old son attends Sandy Hook Elementary School. He said that his son isn’t talking very much and doesn’t yet have any questions. He seems to be processing the events very slowly, and it is also his first experience with death. Dr. Phil recommended getting Richard’s son to talk, as talking can be very cathartic for children struggling with grief.
Dr. Phil: Normal Signs of Grief
Dr. Phil said that for everyone, but especially for kids, “this is a lot to wrap your head around.” Children process things internally, and parents should notice the normal signs of grief: sadness, anger, irritability, guilt and fatigue, stomachache, nightmares, age regression and clinginess. Children even sometimes feel survivor’s guilt, as well as shock.
Dr. Phil recommended seeking professional help when a child’s normal behaviors of grief last longer than they should, i.e. two – three months. Also, keep an eye out for signs of withdrawal and isolation, as well as deteriorating functioning skills.
Richard said that he’s not yet sure if he will bring his son to the funerals of his teachers and classmates. Dr. Phil said that talking about the funerals with his son is a good way to gage whether or not he should go. However, Richard does know that he will have his son return to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Despite Friday’s events, it’s a great school in a safe neighborhood, and he doesn’t want let the actions of one person ruin that.