Some siblings and friends may have questions or need help understanding what they have heard about the tragedy in Newtown. It is important to utilize the strategies for talking with children about disasters.
Talking to Children about Disasters
Each family will find ways to talk with their children about disasters that will be meaningful to them. Some will use pictures and other will use words. We have put together a list of resources that families may find helpful as they support their children during this tragic time.
American Psychiatric Association recommendations include:
- Create an open and supportive environment where children know they can ask questions.
- Give honest answers and information. Use words and concepts they can understand.
- Help children to find ways to express themselves and to know that people are there to help. Remember also that children learn by watching parents and teachers react and listening to their conversations.
- Don't let children watch too much television with frightening repetitious images.
- Monitor for physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches or other pains.
Strategies for Friends and Siblings
Offer language to ask, answer and respond to questions discussed in school or in the community. Examples include:
For a younger child: “My brother has autism and that makes some things hard for him but he does not hurt people.”
For an older child: “Autism did not cause this tragedy. Planned violence is not a part of autism. This is a terrible but very rare event and it should not change the views of people with autism.”
In addition, you may want to talk with siblings or friends of your child with autism about what has happened:
- Ask siblings or friends how they perceive the school community’s reaction to the events and whether others are making unjust or unfair connections.
- Rehearsed phrases or sound bites of your own can also be particularly useful for siblings or friends who may be fearful to share that they have a brother/sister with ASD.
- It is important that you are clear that there is no correlation between ASD and violence. In fact, individuals with autism are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of it.
- Be sure to encourage them to let their parents or teachers know if comments are made that make them feel uncomfortable or upset.
Click here to find a letter from a family to a school to provide information about how they are helping the sibling of their child with autism.
Other resources include:
We would love to hear from you to find out what has been helpful for you and your family during this difficult time. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.