How to help children cope after tragedy

Dec. 15, 2012 at 1:41 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The American Humane Association suggests ways parents and caregivers can help children cope with the fear and uncertainty of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

Since 1877, the American Humane Association has been at the forefront of every major advance in protecting children, pets and farm animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect and it suggests keeping an eye on children's emotional reactions.

Robin Ganzert, president and chief executive officer of the American Humane Association, said it is important to talk to children -- and just as important to listen to them. Encourage kids to express how they feel and ask if anything is worrying them.

Regardless of age, reassure children frequently of their safety and security and reinforce that you, local officials, and their communities are working to keep them safe, Ganzert advised. Older children may seem more capable, but can also be affected.

Ganzert also suggests parents and caregivers:

-- Keep your descriptions to children simple and limit their exposure to graphic information. Keep to the basic facts that something bad happened but that they are safe. Use words they can understand and avoid technical details and terms such as "smoke grenades" and "sniper."

-- 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.

-- 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, their teachers and school staff 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 children are responding, consult your doctor, school counselor or local mental health professional, Ganzert said.

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