Both children and adults may feel stress, the need for reassurance, and confusion in the aftermath of mass shootings. So many communities which are similar to Wilmington have experienced senseless and unpredictable violence. Many individuals feel as if it is just a matter of time before everyone is exposed to similar tragedy. This feeling, and others, such as anger, disillusionment, and fear, are all typical reactions to traumatic events. Adults and children may find that they have trouble sleeping or concentrating, or they may find that they are unable to get away from the constant news about the traumatic event. These reactions should ebb naturally over a short period of time, but there are actions that adults can take to help themselves, so that they feel back to normal, and so that they can provide the sense of stability which children need.
It is important to honor the feelings that traumatic events evoke. Adults should find supportive peers with whom they can discuss the event and with whom they can share their concerns. The process of talking with others can help individuals feel less alone. Adults should try to take a break from the constant news cycle about traumatic events in order to resume their normal daily patterns. The break from the negative broadcasts also provides an opportunity for balance; while the world may seem bleak in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting, positive and altruistic events happen everyday. Taking a break from the negative news can ease negativity as individuals refocus on the positive aspects of their lives. Many individuals find ways to manage their feelings by attempting to do something positive or productive to help benefit themselves, the specific event, or their community in general. These actions could include making donations of time or resources within the local community or reaching out through national volunteer organizations to those who have been impacted in other locales.
Children also need support and an opportunity to process their reactions to traumatic events. Parents should make sure they are available to speak with their children, if their children are aware that tragedy has occurred. Children often hear untrue, exaggerated, or misleading information, and they need adults who can clarify the situation and reassure them of their safety. It is important to make time for conversation, listen to children to ascertain what information they may have heard, assess their emotional reactions to the tragedy, and clarify any misinformation they have received. Most importantly, children need to know that they are safe and that their home and family are safe. It is important that adults regulate the amount of time that they are discussing traumatic events, particularly if they are in hearing distance of their children. Children should not be constantly exposed to news programming that is graphic, difficult for them to understand, or inherently frightening. Parents should also watch their children for signs of stress and changes in sleep or other behaviors which indicate that their children are worried or afraid. Children need routine and a sense of normalcy. While this can be difficult for everyone in the aftermath of a traumatic event, it is particularly important for adults to demonstrate through their own reactions that their children’s world consists of a safe and caring community.