Responding to Kids Questions About Tragedy

When news events like the recent mass murder in Aurora, Colorado, claim the lives of the innocent victims, kids are bound to have questions. Though we are far from where that tragedy took place, news reports can keep it fresh in the mind of a child. This event, in particular, is a scary one, since the shootings took place at a movie theatre featuring a film kids have been anticipating.

Here are some helpful tips from the American Humane Society on ways to help your child cope with scary events.

• Limit their access to television and radio news reports since young children may have trouble processing the enormity of the experience, and sometimes believe that each news report may be a new attack.

• Regardless of age, reassure your child frequently of his safety and security. Reinforce that you, local officials, and other people in the community are always working to keep them safe. Older children may seem more capable, but can also be affected.

• Keep an eye on your child's emotional reactions. Talk to your children — and just as important — listen them. Encourage kids to express how they feel and ask if anything is worrying them. Sometimes, tragedies can amplify the uncertainty a child is already feeling at home, particularly if you are separated from a spouse, moving, or experiencing some other life transition.

 • Be prepared for children to ask if such violence can occur to them. Do not lie but repeat that it is very unlikely and that you are there to keep them safe.

• Watch for symptoms of stress, including clinginess, stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, trouble eating or sleeping, or changes in behavior.

• If you are concerned about the way your child is responding, speak with your pediatrician, a school counselor, or a local mental health professional.

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