6 Ways to Help Our Kids After a Mass Shooting or Disaster

These events are not something that many of us feel equipped to process, let alone help our children manage but there are things we can do to help.

It’s part of every parent and caregiver’s worst nightmare- getting a call or seeing on the news that there has been a mass shooting at a school. These events are not something that many of us feel equipped to process, let alone help our children manage but there are things we can do to help.

Our words and actions matter. Children rely on adults to help keep their world safe, and they tend to defer to adults on this issue. If the caregivers around them are calm and responsive, children go about their daily lives with a sense of security and safety. If caregivers are worried and fearful, children will respond with like behavior, even if they do not understand what is wrong. We need to be mindful of our words and actions in times of stress, as children are still developing their ability to keep levels of danger in context and need us to help be gatekeepers of information.

What can we do? The answer to that will vary as to how close you are to where the event occurred and how old your child is. In an age of 24-hour news media and online social networks, it might seem impossible to avoid exposure to news and information, but for young children who are not near the event, it is recommended to shield them as much as possible and to not talk about the event when they are within hearing distance. If you live near where an event occurred or have older children who become aware of an event, it is important to meet your children where they are developmentally.

  1. Emphasize that your children are not in any immediate danger themselves
  2. Help focus on the helpers in the event – what the police, EMTs, school staff, and other adults are doing to help
  3. Try to correct any misinformation as simple as possible by providing basic facts if necessary
  4. Limit exposure to repetitive news coverage of the event
  5. Allow your children to voice worries and concerns and validate their feelings. Young children may use imaginative play rather than words to process their worries and feelings
  6. Help children generate ideas about what might help them feel safer in the moment if they are feeling uneasy

It’s also important to remember that children show stress in various ways. Clinginess, disrupted sleep, irritability, separation anxiety, or regressed behaviors can all be a sign that a child is having increased worries. This is normal after a tragic event but if it is prolonged and doesn’t respond to usual comfort, you may wish to consult with your child’s pediatrician or other child development professional.

About the Author. Dr. Lauren Formy-Duval is a licensed psychologist practicing in Durham, North Carolina. Working with children and families for over 15 years in schools, hospitals, community agencies, Dr. Formy-Duval is currently in private practice and is also an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute.

Toddlers and Teens Poisoned by Laundry Pods

Since 2012, 8 children under the age of 5 have died from cleaning pods, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

You hear about it in the news – children and teenagers are ingesting cleaning pods. Since 2012, 8 children under the age of 5 have died from cleaning pods, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. For fun, teenagers are taking the “Tide Pod Challenge”.

Cleaning pods are concentrated detergent encapsulated in a colorful gel or powder that looks like candy. Designed for laundry or dishwashers, these pods offer a convenient way to add cleaning solutions. Cleaning pods harm children and teens in several ways. First, the concentrated detergent can be aspirated into the lungs. Alternatively, the pod contents can be ingested which can cause changes in blood pressure and heart rate. Children who have been exposed have been hospitalized with vomiting, breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness and seizures.

Unfortunately, their brightly colored look is enticing to young children. They often smell sweet and resemble candy. As parents and caregivers know, children 5 and under often explore the world using their senses and are quick to put things into their mouths. To keep young children safe, cleaning pods (and all cleaning supplies) should be stored out of reach and made inaccessible to children.

For teens and even some adults, the pods are ingested on purpose as part of a challenge from their peers. Talk with pre-teens and teenagers and explain the dangers of the pod challenge and other risky behaviors.

The statistics* are encouraging. In 2016, the poison control center had 13,439 calls related to pods. In 2017, this number went down to 12,299. Of the 12,299, 10,500 were children younger than 5. To put this problem in perspective, the poison control center had 23,872 calls in 2017 about inadvertently giving someone else’s medicine and 20,723 calls about poisonings related to arts, crafts, office supplies.

Let’s hope the public service announcement with New England Patriots’ Rob Gonkowski helps teens understand the dangers and discourages this dangerous behavior. The message is clear, it’s never a good idea to eat a pod. If you suspect a child under your care may have been exposed to or may have ingested a substance, immediately call the poison control at 1-800-222-1222 or 9-1-1.

* David D. Gummin, James B. Mowry, Daniel A. Spyker, Daniel E. Brooks, Michael O. Fraser & William Banner (2017) 2016 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 34th Annual Report, Clinical Toxicology, 55:10, 1072-1254, DOI: 10.1080/15563650.2017.1388087

For more information, a Safety in the Home course is available within the Basic Childcare Certification Program from Amslee Institute.