Talking to children about tragedy
Child psychologist has simple advice for parents
FORT MYERS - Tragedies like the shooting in Connecticut today can have a profound effect on children. They may wonder if they're really safe at their schools. Four in your Corner's Mike Mason continuing our team coverage tonight by speaking with a child psychologist about how you can talk to your kids. He's here with more.
Parents of young children will inevitably have to talk about what happened today and a local psychologist is giving some simple advice on explaining a complex situation.
For many of us the video of today's tragedy will burn images into our minds that could last a lifetime. Fortunately, some young children won't really understand it.
Steven Cohen: "A lot of those kids were young enough that they didn't really fully get it."
Fort Myers child psychologist Steven Cohen not only helps kids deal with tragedies...but also works with their parents.
Steven Cohen: "The best advice I would give parents is be honest about it, talk to the kids if they ask questions answer them. Keep it simple, direct and to the point."
Cohen says it's important for parents to assure their kids they're safe and protected.
Steven Cohen: "Just because this tragedy happened their life is still the same. They're going to have their own bed, they're going to wake up in the same place they're still going to go to sleep in the same place."
Cohen has dealt with similar tragedies. In 2008 he counseled pre-schoolers and teachers traumatized after Robert Dunn fatally shot his wife at a crowded Cape Coral daycare.
Steven Cohen: "They were more irritable, they had trouble sleeping they didn't like to go on the playground as much more sensitive to noises because there was some gun shooting so that has its affect."
The bottom line: everyone processes things differently. If you notice your child becoming disconnected or introverted, try to draw them out and ask questions.
Steven Cohen: “Give them an idea of what's going on don't try to hide it from them because if you don't answer the questions they're going to go to somebody else who will and then you don't know what they're being told.”
Mike Mason: "And turn the channel if it's on the news."
Steven Cohen: “Yeah."
Doctor Cohen says it's important to limit a child's exposure to these tragedies and parents should get counseling for their child as soon as they begin seeing signs of trouble.