Columbia mall shooting: How to help kids cope in time of tragedy

WASHINGTON – The deadly shooting at the Mall in Columbia on Jan. 25 has rocked the community.

But as adults try to cope with why a 19-year-old man would walk into a store, killing two people before taking his own life, children are also trying to process the tragedy.

But, in order to best help them, adults need to work through their own anxiety first, according to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Kids can easily pick up on stress, or “trickle-down anxiety.” Once calm, a parent can reach out to a child about tragedy.

Next, asking children questions to determine what they already know is key. But don’t push it — forcing a child to open up can be traumatic. Johns Hopkins suggested questions like: “Is there anything you’re worried about?” and “Did you hear about such and such event?”

From there, it’s important to be honest and reassuring while staying realistic and not minimizing the extent of the event. Some anxiety is completely normal.

A full list of recommendations and steps is available on the Johns Hopkins website.

WTOP’s Lori Lundin contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

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