How to talk about tragedy with kids - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

How to talk about tragedy with kids

(Source: NBC News) (Source: NBC News)
Norton Pediatrician and child psychologist Dr. Stephen Johnson (Source: WAVE 3 News) Norton Pediatrician and child psychologist Dr. Stephen Johnson (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - While we all try to process the horrific tragedy In Las Vegas, if it's hard for adults you can imagine it's even harder for children. The questions that come with the horrible images that we've seen from Vegas, or any act of violence, are tough.

"Totally mortified," Louisville resident Paula Allen said. "I couldn't believe that someone would do that."

Allen says her grandchildren have wondered the same thing. Why would anyone kill and hurt so many people? It's led to some tough conversations.

"Society today is just different," Allen said. "You worry about your kids, grandkids, and the future they have."

Norton Pediatrician and child psychologist Dr. Stephen Johnson says when it comes to tragedies, the conversations with children should be age appropriate.

Eight-years-old and under, Dr. Johnson recommends if they haven't heard of it, don't even bring up the topic. Be careful about the images they see.

"They can have a fear reaction," Dr. Johnson said. "They aren't going to necessarily understand what they are seeing. Later on, they might start having nightmares, their play might become more aggressive."

PTSD, anxiety and depression can also be an issue.

Dr. Johnson says you want your child to know they can talk to you. With pre-teens and teens, they are probably more aware than you think.

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"You want to find out first what they know about it," Dr. Johnson said. "Have you heard about what happened in Las Vegas? Tell me what you have heard? So they can let you know what they are thinking. If there is misinformation gently correct that."

Dr. Johnson says along with talking about the negative, bring up the positive.

"Are you aware of heroic acts that took place during these events," Dr. Johnson said. "If they are interested, ask them do you think there is anything we can do to help support the people?"

Dr. Johnson says because kids prepare for emergencies at school, whether it's an active shooter situation or natural disaster, do the same at home.  Reassure them that they are safe. Be honest, and don't dismiss their concerns.

Keeping the TV out of children's bedroom is also a good idea. If your child has repetitive nightmares, withdrawal, or changes in behavior because of something they saw or experienced, talk to their doctor.

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