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How to Help Kids Cope After National Tragedies

An expert in child traumatic stress says parents should be proactive and check in with their children about the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
An expert in child traumatic stress says parents should be proactive and check in with their children about the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
October 4, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. - As Americans continue to reel from the shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday, it's important to know how to help children cope with this tragic event.

Dr. Melissa Brymer, director of terrorism and disaster programs for the UCLA-Duke National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, said parents shouldn't be naive about what their kids have seen and heard. Preteens and teens especially have most likely experienced a barrage of social-media posts on their phones. Brymer said it's critical to start the conversation with children, so these tragedies don't become more threatening in their minds.

"We need to be proactive as parents," she said, "So, first and foremost, checking in. Has your child heard about the incident? Because we want to first clarify what they've heard, if there's any kind of misunderstandings."

Unfortunately, some Oregonians know firsthand how these tragedies affect communities. Sunday's incident took place on the two-year anniversary of the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, where nine people were killed.

Brymer said parents can be proactive in terms of exposing kids to coverage on television as well.

"It's important to make sure that we put limits on it," she said. "So, we can do that by changing the channel and not having the newsfeed on."

Brymer reinforced the point that many children likely have been exposed to the tragedy through social media. She said to make sure they know they can talk to a parent or a teacher if they're feeling sad or overwhelmed.

Last but not least, Brymer suggested that parents need to take care of themselves.

"Sometimes we need a minute to digest our own reactions, our own emotions, before we start talking to our kids," she said, "and it's OK to take that moment for ourselves to reflect on what we're seeing and hearing in the news."

More tips are online at nctsn.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR