Helping kids cope with the news

  • May. 30, 2017 12:30 a.m.

Teens and tweens may be particularly interested in the details of the May 22 Manchester terrorist attack given Ariana Grande’s popularity, so parents should take the lead in addressing it directly with their children instead of trying to filter the news, mental health experts say.

“These kids, they all have access to technology,” says Cedarhurst child psychologist Laurie Zelinger, author of the 2016 book “Please Explain ‘Terrorism’ to Me!” They are trading information and feelings on their smartphones and through social media accounts, she says. “The information is coming to them so fast. The kids might be light-years ahead of us in terms of what they’ve heard.”

Parents should bring up the topic, says Wendi Fischer, a child psychologist and trauma specialist in private practice in West Islip. “If you don’t bring it up, somebody else is going to,” she says. “Everybody is talking about it.”

Parents should:

— Make sure you are calm yourself. Kids pick up on subtle cues of worry, says Danielle Smith, a psychologist at Jericho High School.

Assess your teen and how to approach him or her based on maturity level and tendency toward anxiety, says Todd Benjamin, a social worker at Jericho High. Younger siblings may have picked up on what’s happened, given Grande’s fame. “If I had three children of different ages, I would have three different conversations,” Benjamin says.

— Ask your kids what they know and where they heard it. “A lot of information comes in, and over time it becomes more accurate,” Zelinger says. Correct misconceptions.

— Reassure them that even though terrorists want to harm others, the United States is one of the safest countries in the world, says Don Sinkfield, a mental health counselor in Valley Stream. “I would steer the conversation toward the fact that they are surrounded by people who want to protect them,” Sinkfield says. Remind them that police presence is being increased at venues, for instance, and that bags are searched before entry.

— Talk about the odds of them actually being a terror victim. The news can focus on showing one video clip over and over or sensationalize certain facts, Fischer says. Remind your kids that thousands of people got out of the Grande concert safely. “You want to put it in perspective as much as possible, without minimizing how horrible it is,” Fischer says.

— Validate their feelings and help them find ways to counteract hatred, Sinkfield says. “Let them have a voice,” he says. “Our voice against hatred is powerful.”

— Make a backup plan with your kids for times when you may be in a public venue. Explain it’s like having a spare tire in your car — you hardly ever, if ever, need it, but it’s there just in case, Zelinger says. If you get separated, what should they do? Make sure they have phone numbers for other relatives. Tell your kids that if they can’t reach you — “because I know where you are, I will be doing my best to find you,” Zelinger says. Teach them to know where exit doors are and identify places where they could meet you if separated. Teach them how to approach authority figures, and that if they see something unusual, to say something. Kids should know what they are allergic to, in case they need to be treated for anything.

— Parents should expect kids may initially have bad dreams or may resist going to crowded events, Zelinger says. “That doesn’t mean the child is not resilient enough to get over it. It just means they are processing something unusual,” Zelinger says. “If it continues beyond a few months, I would look at professional help.”

Just Posted

Red Deer’s 2017-2021 council sworn in

Mayor and council ready to serve for the next four years

Red Deer’s Salvation Army vehicles vandalized twice in six weeks

Police investigating Sept. 10 and Oct. 21 incidents

Update: More details released of fatal police-involved shooting near Alix

ASIRT says man rammed police car, injured officer

Influenza vaccine clinics get started across Red Deer, Central Alberta

Clutching stuffed animals they got from the Calgary Zoo, Owen and Alton… Continue reading

Replay: Red Deer

Watch the highlights from this week

Montreal prepares for “Cohen Week” as first anniversary of singer’s death looms

Three sets of crumbling concrete steps have just been fixed heading into… Continue reading

Montreal prepares for “Cohen Week” as first anniversary of singer’s death looms

His soulful poetry, distinctive baritone and knack for writing runaway hit songs… Continue reading

Sylvan’s talent on display for fundraising show

Sylvan Lake Refugee Project is hosting Sylvan’s Got Talent Nov. 3

B.C. ice rink where 3 people died remains closed due to safety concerns

FERNIE, B.C. — Residents who were forced from their homes because of… Continue reading

Trudeau condemns appointment of Mugabe as WHO ambassador

EDMONTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the appointment of Zimbabwe President… Continue reading

Friday Oct. 21: Winning Lotto Numbers

Friday, October 20, 2017 LOTTO MAX Winning Numbers 1 4 12 27… Continue reading

New northbound Hwy 2 lanes at Gaetz Avenue to open this Sunday

Drivers heading north through Red Deer on Hwy 2 will have a… Continue reading

Canadian planet hunter seeking alien life

‘The shifting line of what is crazy’ says Toronto-born astrophysicist

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month