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Returning to routine, opening dialogue important for kids after tragedies

December 17, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
One of the most difficult conversations may be the one a parent has with their child when questions arise after Friday's horrific tragedy. But talking about it and even just being more aware of your child's reaction can help both parent and child. Advice from ABC's Chief Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser helps put things in perspective.

With images of Friday's Connecticut tragedy still fresh, many parents and their children woke up Monday morning wondering about their own safety at school.

Dr. Richard Besser says getting back into a routine is the first step in helping children cope with anxiety.

"I think that sending your children off to school this morning was the right thing to do," said Besser. "This was a tragic event that took place, but getting kids back into their normal routine is one of the most important things you can do to help them process this. Their world is not ending. There are things that we all need to work towards changing. But although something terrible happened that a bad person did, their life goes on and goes forward and they can still go to school and play their sports and have fun, that doesn't change this."

And the child's age matters. Under 7? Hopefully you can protect them from having to hear anything at all regarding traumatic events.

School-age children need to know the basics: what happened; someone did something bad but they're gone now. Police took care of them. Reassure your child that as a parent, your job is to protect them and that their world is safe.

If you have teens, engage them in conversation. Start with something like: "How can something like this happen?"

And do something positive as a family.

"Thinking about what you can do as a family to give back to your community," said Besser. "Doing something positive, some act of charity following a traumatic event can be very, very healing."

And keep in mind, just seeing images can be traumatic. Kids don't have to be there to be affected.

Every child reacts differently. Nobody knows your child better than you do. Watch for signs of difficulty coping, like changes in sleep patterns. If you notice change, seek professional help.


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