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Parenting

Helping Kids Cope With Tragic Events

2:00

Another all too common tragedy has saddened the hearts of Americans this week. Just 35 days after a man opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and wounding nearly 500 others, another mass killing has taken place. This time in the small community of Sutherland Springs, Texas, leaving 26 people dead and 10 critically injured.  About half of the victims were children, according to news reports. This follows a terrorist attack in New York City on Halloween that killed 8 people. The heartbreak and numbers are gut wrenching to think about.

These kinds of horrific events can make the world seem like a terrifying place, particularly for kids.

How can you help your child cope with such frightening news? As a parent or a caregiver, how you react can have a strong impact on how your child views his or her own safety.

Dr. Jennifer Caudle, an associate professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, suggests that parents shield their children from news reports.

"Children may become upset by news coverage," Caudle said. So monitor and limit what they see, hear or read. This may reduce their anxiety and help them deal with these unsettling events, she explained.

Other suggestions include:

  • Ask your child what they have already heard about the event. 
  • Provide the facts but try not to make judgments about the situation. 
  • Avoid upsetting details, and reassure children that people are working hard to make things better for everyone. 
  • Don't pressure kids to talk about the events, but encourage them to share their feelings by talking, drawing or writing. 
  • Let children know they can come to you for information and that they are free to ask questions. 
  • Remind children that their home is a safe place. 
  • Let children know that people may react differently to hard-to-understand events.

If your child or adolescent seems to be obsessing over the events and is having a hard time putting things in perspective, they may need professional help. 

"Problems with sleeping, changes in appetite or behavior, mood changes and new physical complaints, such as stomach aches and headaches, could -- in some children -- be a sign that they are having a difficult time coping," she said. "If this is the case, make sure your child sees a health care professional."

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says that it is important to let your child know that you will do your best to take care of him or her, that you love them and it’s okay for them to feel upset or sad.

NIMH also offers these tips:

  • If your child is having trouble sleeping give them extra attention, let them sleep with a light on, or let them sleep in your room (for a short time).
  • Try to keep normal routines, for example, reading bedtime stories, eating dinner together, watching TV together, reading books, exercising, or playing games.

Unfortunately, these types of tragedies don’t appear to being going away anytime soon. But, you can help your child (and yourself) by reminding them that although there are some people that might want to inflict harm on others, most people are loving and kind. They want a safe place for children to grow up in and they are doing their best to make this world a better place.

Story sources: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, https://consumer.healthday.com/mental-health-information-25/child-psychology-news-125/helping-children-cope-when-a-mass-tragedy-strikes-728263.html

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/helping-children-and-adolescents-cope-with-violence-and-disasters-parents/index.shtml

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