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A Conversation on Mental Health Part 2: Talking with Kids

Created: May 16, 2018 08:44 AM

When parents or adults are talking with kids about violence or tragedies they seen on television and social media, psychologist with Essentia Health , Dr. Nicole Fleming, said it's important for parents to process their own emotions or initial reactions privately.

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"How they act is going to have a greater impact then what they say to their kids, so if they're feeling anxious or upset, that's going to pass on to their kids when they're having those discussions," Fleming said. 

She also said it's important to insure safety and let children know that adults and teachers are doing whatever they can to make sure that students are going to be safe despite what's going on.  Fleming said it helps to limit the exposure to the images they see on television or social media.  

"Eventually when the conversation begins, let the child kind of guide the conversation, allowing them to ask questions and then parents can help disspell any rumors or misconceptions or misinformation they might be getting," Fleming said. 

Social media also plays a role in our they receive the information and it works in different ways. 

"There's some positives to it in that people can go on and express their sympathies during these times, or they can kind of voice a call for action,"  Fleming said.  "On the other hand, the images that are exposed and possibly misinformation can then increase a child's anxiety."

She said that when children are exposed to images, it can have a psychological impact in terms of a dramatic response to that stress.

"Schools can really empower kids in addition to some of the drills, to help them know how to keep safe if a situation like this were to arise, but also be able to voice to teachers or parents if there's concern that a peer is struggling or that there's warning signs," Fleming said.  "Help children know what the warning signs might be in some of their peers so they can express concerns."

Fleming said most schools will have a school psychologist available that if students are having issue they can go talk to that individual, but if those resources aren't available,  they can reach out into the community and find a local psychologist that can talk to the children and kind of address their fears and anxieties and help them find some coping strategies. 

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