"'Is this real? Can this really be happening? Can this happen to me?" are just some questions listed by USC Professor of Social Work Holly Proebe Sotelo.
Research at the school has produced a science-based strategy called Psychological First Aid, which has been tested across the country from the Sandy Hook school shooting, to natural disasters, to gang violence in Los Angeles.
The specialists say the current crisis is exacerbated by unfiltered and unrelenting images on social media.
"Even in 1992 when the civil unrest happened in South LA. Today what we have is more exposure," says Sotelo.
Sotelo says Psychological First Aid is a five-step process.
- LISTEN - Avoid judging and interrupting.
- PROTECT - Ask "What do you need right now, to feel safe?"
- CONNECT - Seek out the people who bring the child comfort.
- MODEL CALM BEHAVIOR
- TEACH - Find ways to wind down. Deep breathing. Turn off TV and social media.
What is at stake is your child's sense of hope and well-being for a lifetime.
"They are watching your tone of voice. They are watching the expressions on your face. They need to know that you are in control, even if you don't feel like you're in control. They need you to be there, their guide, their protector," says Sotelo.
The parent's role is even more critical because of school closures due to COVID-19. Teachers don't have the same access to students for open discussions.
Sotelo says all adults engaged in protests must be mindful that children are watching.
"It is OK to protest, it is OK to express your first amendment right to speak up against issues that people feel are unjust. But parents also and the older people on the streets need to know that there are young people out there and they're watching, and they're absorbing everything that you do so it's important that we be good role models to these young people."
LAUSD is offering help online. A list of resources can be found on the LAUSD homepage https://achieve.lausd.net/domain/4.