How to cope with post-shooting stress

How to talk to your kids

wtopstaff | November 15, 2014 12:08 am

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Omama Altaleb, Special to

WASHINGTON — How could this happen? Why did this happen?

You will probably experience many of these emotions when tragedy strikes:

Shock, Fear, Anger, sorrow, grief and disillusionment.

Most of us feel that the world is a more dangerous place today than you did yesterday. It will take some time to recover your sense of safety, confidence and balance.

We all have to live in this world together and the best thing we can all do is develop our resilience, strength and confidence.

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

Listen and talk with your co-workers, family and children

  • Listen to your family, children and co-workers worries and fears. Make sure you make eye contact, sit down if possible, get close and move to a quiet place if possible. Again make them feel safe and reassured. The most important thing is to listen.
  • Create times to talk with your family after dinner, take walks, have a snack, stop on your way home from school for an ice cream and listen to them about what is happening at school so they can process it right after school, and not have powerful feelings and fears linger. You start the conversation and listen.
  • Co-workers: Take time to listen and talk. Be honest and vulnerable. Go to lunch together, have coffee with each other.

Home is the family cocoon and sanctuary

  • Your home is the critical place to feel safe in this time of disorientation, fear and instability.
  • Family rituals are important: Times when the family is glued together, sharing, looking into each other’s eyes and being in each other’s presence creates an environment of safety from the world.
  • Meals, game night, walks, getting in nature, snacks, cooking and baking or doing things together. Spending time with your animals give children love, stability and assurance.

Look for symptoms of stress. If any of these red flags come up, call your family doctor or other health care professional, clergy or school counselors.


  • Eating patterns
  • Sleep disturbances, INSOMNIA
  • Headaches
  • GI problems: upset stomach, cramps, gas, diarrhea, constipation
  • Biting fingernails
  • Wetting the bed
  • Asthma or shortness of breath
  • Weight gain or loss


  • Anger, tantrums
  • Depression or moodiness
  • Overreactions – your child continues to re-experience the traumatic event: could be in their play, dolls or when playing with other children
  • Nightmares
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Phobias – not wanting to go back to school, get on a bus, go to a party or leave the house
  • Memory problems
  • Butterflies
  • Lack of concentration, can’t think clearly


  • Withdrawal socially from family, friends – co-workers, school activities, bus
  • Play – not wanting to play or go outside
  • Anger and tantrums
  • Quiet and non-responsiveness
  • Increase in arguments
  • Overreactions

Control your exposure to news

  • Research shows repeated viewing of shootings or mass deaths can create what is called, “remote PTSD.”
  • Watch TV together as a family. Older children tell them to not watch it for at least a week on computers, phones and devices.
  • Tell your family that it is unhealthy, mentally and physically to watch this horrible event over and over and over.

Root yourself into your community

  • Everyone needs emotional support; parents, children and the community. Go to neighborhood meetings, school meetings, gatherings. Show your children that it is healing to be with other people.
  • “Isolation can make you sick or not heal, where community helps everyone heal together.”

At work

  • Talk to your supervisors about creating a group to support each other through this terrible time of tragedy.
  • Counselor – Make sure your company had a counselor on staff to support and guide you through your journey through stress, anger, fear and maybe depression.
  • Groups at work> Ask if you can create groups around different interests such as: cooking, gardening, investing, spirituality etc. These groups help people bond in small groups and feel more safe and connected.

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