WASHINGTON – It’s hard enough for adults to get a handle on what happened Monday at the Navy Yard. For kids, it’s even tougher.
“I think when these events happen, we also need to be mindful of how it affects children,” says Dr. Catherine Crone vice-chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Inova Fairfax Hospital.
She says it’s a good time for a little extra TLC to reassure children and ease their fears.
“Kids need to know that they are OK and it’s safe,” Crone explains.
It’s also a good idea for parents to limit their exposure to graphic images of the Navy Yard shootings. Crone says looking at those pictures over and over again can be disturbing for adults and much more so for kids.
“With so much media coverage, one needs to be careful about exposure and oversaturation about something that is really traumatic and particularly for younger children, this could be very scary,” she says.
Start the conversation. Talking to your child about a tragedy can help the child understand what has happened and begin the coping process.
Think about what you want to say. While there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to talk to your child about a tragic event, planning helps. Ask your child what he or she already knows about the event and let your child’s answers guide the discussion.
Tell the truth. Answer your child’s questions honestly and focus on the basics without exaggerating or speculating. You can always share your own thoughts on the event and remind the child that you’re there for him or her.
Consider age. Your child’s age will play a big role on how information is processed. Click here for tips on dealing with tragedy based on your child’s age.
Help the child cope. To help your child process what happened, it helps for parents to remain calm, reassure the child of his or her safety, limit media exposure, maintain the routine and encourage the expression of feelings.