School Shootings: How to Help Your Child’s Anxiety Following Tragedy

School Shootings: How to Help Your Child’s Anxiety Following Tragedy

By Kim Simone

In times of uncertainty and fear, children will often turn to those who bring them certainty and calm. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of a school shooting, parents may not be able to give their children the answers they need to alleviate their anxiety. Even when a child is far removed from the setting of a school shooting, being in a school setting can induce anxiety. It is important that parents recognize signs of distress and anxiety exhibited by their child following a tragedy.

Elementary school students will likely have questions that have no definitive answers, such as the motives behind a school shooting. Parents need to be prepared to answer their child with caution as children may not be emotionally prepared to hear explicit details. Furthermore, children may be concerned with how the shooting may have impacted them, or rather, how a shooting may impact them in the future. Questions such as “Could this happen to me?” or “Could this happen at my school?” show how uncertainty can lead to excessive levels of anxiety in a child. 

Symptoms of anxiety in children can include unexplained stomachaches, headaches, and changes in sleeping and eating behaviors. It is also important to note any changes in academic and social behavior in school, as anxiety may be heightened in this environment.

If your child is experiencing excessive worry and anxiety as a result of tragedy, consider having them speak to a child psychologist. Prolonged anxiety can harm a student academically, socially, and emotionally. Building a support system for children who are overcome by distress and anxiety is crucial in bringing a sense of calm to their environment in a time of uncertainty.

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety after a tragedy, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit


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