CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - With some schools already in session, and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools starting soon, we turned to psychiatrist Dr. Cheryl Dodds, Medical Director of Atrium Health Behavioral Health - Davidson, to help guide us through an important conversation we should have with our children about the mass shootings.
“Even if you think your kids don’t know about it, they know about it. And they have lots of questions. It’s important for your to model to them. Let them know it’s safe to ask those questions and to talk about your own feelings.”
Dr. Dodds’ specialty is child and adolescents psychiatry. She says you want to consider your child’s age as you approach talking to them about the shootings.
“I think with very young children it’s important to keep it very simple. Death is not real to children before they get to first grade. So you want to ask very concrete questions. And mostly let the child lead the questions and let you know what they know,” Dr. Dodds added. “Make sure to offer your child reassurance about their safety.”
For older kids, Dr. Dodds suggests you start by simply asking if other kids are talking about this.
“Ask your child, ‘Have you heard anything about this at school or with your friends. Did you see anything on TV?’ Let them know you want to know what they know about it,” Dodds recommends.
“You want to stay calm and not create extra anxiety for the child. You want to keep them in their normal routine and not create a lot of change around these kinds of events because that’s going to stir up more anxiety,” according to Dr. Dodds.
“You want to limit their access to media and TV so they are not seeing those gory images over and over again. They are traumatic for us as adults as well has for the kids,” she explained.
Validation is super important, according to Dr. Dodds.
“You really want to validate their emotions. Let them know it’s OK to be upset about this and to be scared by these events.”
Dodds says we should take time to remind our kids there are plans in place to protect them at school, not just for their peace of mind, but for their safety.
“You also want to talk to them about the safety precautions in place at their school. Remind them of the drills they go through at school and the importance of following those. Not feeling like they can handle it on themselves but remind them to follow their teachers and principals if something like that were to happen at their school."
These kinds of national traumas can make all of us, adults and kids, feel powerless. But Dr. Dodds says we can help them get back some of that control by encouraging our kids to help others in times like these.
“You want to also empower the child to see how they can help in these situations. Whether it’s making a care package for the victims families or donating to the Red Cross."
You can also reach out to the professionals for their help at Atrium Health, Behavioral Health - Davidson.