In the wake of the mass shooting tragedy in Las Vegas, medical professionals at Summit Health are encouraging parents to help their children cope in a healthy way. That often starts with a conversation.
“The most important thing for parents or caregivers is to filter the information about a crisis and present it in an age-appropriate manner.” Explained, Summit Behavioral Health Clinical Director, Candace Rutherford.
In a world of constant multi-media messages, it is safe to assume your child has heard something about the tragedy. Experts recommend parents start the discussion by asking their children what they already know, and what questions they might have.
“In general, it is best to leave out graphic or unnecessary details, and try to keep young children away from repetitive graphic images.” said Rutherford. “Most of the time children will ask ‘why?’ It is okay to be real with them and explain—sometimes people make bad decisions and we don’t know why.”
Parents who would like older children to be aware of current events can consider recording news coverage, allowing them the opportunity to preview the messages before children see it. In today’s day and age, most older children have access to the news through the Internet and social media. It is best for parents to be aware what is out there, and proactively talk to children about what they may see and hear.
“The best message a parent can give is: it is okay if these things bother you, we will get through the crisis together,” said Rutherford.
Parents should be aware of the signs that children are not coping well with the tragedy. Those include:
- Sleep problems
- Complaining of headaches or generally feeling unwell
- Changes in behavior
- Emotional problems
“Sadness and anxiety are normal first reactions to a tragedy of this magnitude, it’s when children have these feelings over and over that there could be cause for concern.” explained Rutherford.
If you feel your child may need more help, contact their primary care provider, a mental health professional or counselor.