BOSTON (CBS) – Whether it’s overseas atrocities like the Paris murders or the weekly parade of mass shootings here at home, there’s no hiding the reality of violence from our kids. But a local expert says there are strategies you can use to help them process it without creating irrational fear.
“For a child, every moment is a teachable moment,” says Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, who recommends making sure young children know the events in Paris and California are far away and don’t directly threaten them. “It’s very real and very immediate for them, so what we need to do is bring it a place where it makes sense in their sphere of understanding which is really the nuclear family and the community.”
Another strategy for parents: heed the advice of an old friend.
“One of our great mentors, Mister Rogers, told us, when something awful like this happens, think about the helpers, think about the ambulance drivers, the doctors and the nurses and those that help, because for every bad thing that happens there are a whole horde of people there to make the world right,” he says.
And most of all, understand that kids need your help to realize this is real-life, not some movie or video game, so that, says Rich, “we not allow this to become part of our entertainment or fun, but that it is truly the horror that it is.”
A final bit of advice: “make sure your kids understand what to do when they feel threatened, who they can depend on, and who they can reach out to.” And make sure their most important resource is engaged and available.
That, of course, is you.