How to deal with children's exposure to gun violence

How to deal with children's exposure to gun violence

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - When national tragedies like the one in Dallas take place, therapists suggest adults have open and honest conversations with children.

Though the conversation will be tough, family and child therapists insist it is a conversation worth having in the wake of a tragedy.  

"I always suggest to my parents, maybe start with what they know, you know?" said Tony Roman, a licensed clinical social worker. "It may be an open conversation, telling your son and daughter, 'Have you heard what's happened on the news? Have you talked about it with your friends?' I feel that's always a good lead-in to figure out where they're at." 

Roman said adults should also make sure children are getting the correct information, especially because of the way things spread by word-of-mouth and social media.

As for the depth of the conversation, Roman said it depends on the age of the child.

"Of course, if you have a preschooler, you're not going to go into specifics," he said. "When I say get on their level, I mean literally getting down and having that conversation, getting down on the floor and saying that something bad happened and reiterating they are safe and you love them as parents."

If the child is in elementary school, parents should realize they may already know more than anticipated.

"Even then, there may be some age-inappropriate kind of information you may choose to leave out," Roman said. "But that's where it's critical to ask what they know and what they think, because you may think they haven't heard this and unfortunately they already have."

If a child is in middle school or high school, Roman said it is important to dig deeper. He also stressed the importance of being honest.

Roman added if a child does not seem to be affected emotionally by what they are hearing, then adults do not have to go into more detail than necessary.

However, adults may want to revisit the topic if they notice any changes in behavior or personality in children.

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