Thursday’s shootings in Roseburg, Oregon highlight how a community can quickly be traumatized by a tragic event. In the aftermath of such tragedies, survivors are often left with a complex mix of emotions ranging from disbelief to fear. Direct survivors are not the only people affected by these events; those who learn of the violence indirectly through the media can experience a similar mix of complicated emotions. Children can especially be affected, and parents are often confused or unsure on how to talk with their children after these events occur.
The American Psychiatric Association and the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association provide some tips for how parents might discuss traumatic events with their kids:
1) Allow children to talk openly about their thoughts on the event. (Children differ in how they express their thoughts and feelings. Some may speak openly and candidly; some may not. Give children time to ask questions, and let them talk about it at their own pace.)
2) Don’t force a child to talk about their thoughts if they are not interested or ready to do so.
3) Avoid overexposure to news event on TV though keep informed from credible sources.
4) Understand that fears of danger are natural and often pass with time.
5) Help children stay connected with friends and other family members who might be sharing similar thoughts and feelings about the event.
6) Use simple language kids understand.
7) Be honest but reassuring when answering their questions.
8) Children who have been traumatized in the past are often more sensitive to traumatic events and might need extra support.
9) Remember that children often learn how to respond to tragedy by watching how parents respond.
10) If a child develops ongoing signs of worry, sleep problems, fears about dying, or other symptoms that do not resolve and negatively affect their daily lives, consider seeking an evaluation from a psychiatric physician.
More information can be found on the American Psychiatric Association’s website: www.psychiatry.org/mental-health.
For more information, contact:
Dan Bristow, M.D.
Chairman, Public Information and Education Committee Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association