How to Talk To Kids About Traumatic Events

The Las Vegas mass shooting can be difficult for adults to process. So how should you approach it with children or teenagers?

"I go to a lot of concerts and things. I can't imagine going somewhere I really enjoy and that's been a big part of my life and somewhere I've always felt safe," says Taylor Black, a high school senior. 

Tragic events, like the mass shooting in Las Vegas, can trigger a range of emotions, for both adults and youth.

"I was really, really sad that another one of these happened. I was also really surprised at how many fatalities there were," says Andrew Tong, a Williston High School sophomore. 

"It makes me a little nervous, especially at such big concerts like that," says Black. 

High school counselor Erik Olson says whether parents talk to their children about a traumatic event is an individual choice. But being aware of their emotions and listening to them is key.

"I think for us it's letting the kids initiate that conversation. Because we don't want to instill worry in someone who's not worried about something. So it's more letting them do the leading of how that conversation goes," says Olson. 

Black initiated that conversation with her mom.

"I think we need to talk about things like this because if we just hear about it and don't say anything and we don't stand up for what we believe, then nothing's going to change," says Black. 

Parents should also provide comfort and positive reassurance.

"Little kids can handle these conversations if you're honest with them and you're not showing fear or distress yourself," says Olson. 

In addition to working through emotions, discussing tragic events can foster a better understanding of what happened.

"Just because it's happened a couple times and it could happen again, we shouldn't let people like that have power over us in that kind of way. We should still stand up for what we believe," says Black.

And in some instances, it helps give the resolve needed to move forward.

For more tips on how to help children cope with tragic events, take a look at these recommendations  put together by the NDSU Extension Service-Burleigh County. 

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