Talking to Kids After Tragedy
The news from Las Vegas is unimaginable. At least 58 people have been killed and more than 500 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
Now, with images of the aftermath circulating on-air and online, many parents are left to wonder how to talk to their children about tragedies like this.
Chris Cashen is the Behavioral Health Coordinator for OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center. He says the first step parents should take is to simply ask kids what they know, and then talk about it truthfully.
“Asking kids, what have you heard, what do you know, what do you think, this kind of thing, and if they’ve been told something that’s incorrect, we need to tell them the truth,” said Cashen. “We don’t need to go into a whole lot of detail that might be either above their ability to comprehend or might be upsetting to them.“
And Cashen says one of the most important things a parent can do is to reassure kids that they are safe.
“One of the things we need to do other than just checking in with them and seeing how they are doing is to make sure they know home is a safe place," he said. "That they’re going to be okay at home. That mom and dad are going to be okay. They’re going to be okay."
After a national tragedy, sometimes kids can have trouble coping. Cashen says signs of that include changes in behavior like nightmares, a child not sleeping, new fears, lack of concentration or unusual moods.
If a parent notices these changes and talking with the child doesn’t seem to alleviate the fear, Cashen suggests contacting a counselor
“If a parent says to a kid, you are going to be okay, things will be alright, the child also knows that’s what we are supposed to say to them. So they may or may not take us absolutely seriously," warned Cashen. “When they hear it from a third party they may take that more to heart.”