Saturday, 15 December 2012

Mental health specialist shares tips on talking to kids about tragedies

When tragedy strikes, parents and teachers struggle with what, and how much to tell their children. The Daily News contacted Tanya Martin, a licensed social worker and mental health specialist who treats children at A Child’s Place counseling center in Longview, for tips about discussing the Connecticut shooting and her recommendations follow:

• To avoid unneeded trauma, make sure that children get only as much information as they can handle.

“Parents need to be the ones to tell the children what happened, and they need to do it in an age-appropriate way,” Martin said. Otherwise, he said, “What will happen is they’ll go to school Monday and hear it from their peers.”

• Protect young children from graphic images and reports.
“Number one, do not let children watch the news. It’s going to be played over and over over. That traumatizes children very much. If you’re not there with them, they’re there receiving that trauma alone. Turn off the television,” Martin said.

• Offer young children a very simple, basic explanation of what happened, such as “A young man was very sick today and he went into a school and hurt a lot of people,” Martin suggested. Then, be honest, but brief if the child presses for further information.
“Let the child then direct you to what they need to know next,” Martin said.

• Tell them that they can talk with you about it at any time.
“Remind them, ‘My door is always open. Talk to me about it any time a question comes up to you,’” Martin said.

• Older children may express higher than normal amounts of anxiety, share fears about their safety, or regress to past behaviors, such as wanting to sleep with a stuffed animal.
“Our children are beginning to really grasp how unsafe the world is. It’s terrifying to them.

...There’s not much we can do other than nurture them through it and talk about what we can do to be safer,” Martin said.

• Teens may respond with anger. Give them a chance to vent constructively.
“Their sense of shock is going to be very personal because he was so close to their age. Let them be angry. Ask them things like, ‘If you had a chance to say something to (the gunman) what would you say?’” Martin said.

No comments:

Post a Comment