Local Therapist Weighs in on How to Talk About Elementary School Shooting With Your Kids
Many parents are asking themselves a number of questions after Friday's elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Marriage and Family Therapist, Keith Manner, works as the Clinical Supervisor at Creekside Counseling Center in Redding.
He said "the traumatic impact of information depends directly on how much [your kids are] exposed to."
Manner said it's almost impossible to keep children completely in the dark during a traumatic event.
While it's okay for them to be aware of the situation, he said it's important to monitor the amount of details they learn. If kids "see too much of it, they get overwhelmed," Manner said.
If your child is aware of the tragedy or comes home with questions, he said it's best to acknowledge that.
"Number one, you want to express that you are so sorry that they are exposed to that type of information and it's so sad and alarming," Manner said. "You want to honor that they understand it and honor their emotions. You want to validate that yes, it did happen. You want to emphasize with them that this is a terrible thing and we try to do so many things to keep our families and our communities safe, but that these things do happen. And then talk to them a little but about the things in their life that make them feel safe."
After a discussion, no matter what your emotions might be, he said you still have to bring your child back to their everyday life. He said doing things like playing basketball or baking cookies help them adjust back to normalcy.
"You validate, you emphasize, then you redirect them," Manner said.
Often time, people ask Manner how to tell if your child is deeply affected or overwhelmed by a situation like this.
He suggests monitoring their actions. Has their eating pattern changed? Are they still socializing with friends? Are they having nightmares? If this is the case, he said to start asking questions.
"You may lead them a little bit; 'did you see something on TV that bothers you?' If very clearly the child says, 'I'm scared. I'm very scared about somebody coming to our house or coming to our school.' If that behavior or emotion persists, that's probably when you need to reach out for help and connect with a therapist."
If you plan on having a discussion with your children, Manner suggests doing it in a family-meeting setting. He said it's important to allow every family member to express their feelings.
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