Newswise — STRATFORD, NJ - When a tragedy strikes, such as the recent attack in Las Vegas, young children will look to their parents to interpret the world for them. 

Dr. Jennifer Caudle, a family physician and associate professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, has advice for parents who are grappling with a way to help their children understand a world that could suddenly seem like a very threatening place. 

“Children may become upset by news coverage,” Dr. Caudle explained. 

To help parents communicate with their children about tragic events like this, Dr. Caudle offers the following advice: 

  • Start by asking your child what they have heard and what they know
  • Repeated media coverage may be difficult and confusing for children. Minimize anxiety by limiting television news coverage. If children are watching media, be aware of what they are watching and seeing.
  • Be aware of what you say and how you react to news. If parents are upset or crying, children might be upset as well, as kids may take emotional cues from their parents.
  • Stick to the facts when talking to children. Try not to make judgments. When asked for more detail, statements such as “people are working very hard to make the situation better for everyone” can be helpful.
  • Encourage children to ask questions, but don’t force them to talk about it.
  • Be reassuring. Let them know that they are safe in their home.
  • Let them know that it is normal for them to have different emotions in response to the tragedy.
  • Make sure children know that they can come to you for more information and for reassurance.
  • Help your children share their feelings with others, whether that is by talking, drawing pictures or writing. 

Dr. Caudle also notes that it is important to notice signs that a child may not be coping well with a tragedy. “Problems with sleeping, changes in appetite or behavior, mood changes and new physical complaints such as stomach aches and headaches, could - in some children - be a sign that they are having a difficult time coping,” says Dr. Caudle. “If this is the case, make sure your child sees a health care professional.” 

About Rowan University

Rowan University is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution dedicated to excellence in undergraduate education. It offers bachelor’s through doctoral programs to 18,500 students through its campuses in Glassboro, Camden and Stratford, New Jersey. Home to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and the School of Osteopathic Medicine, it is only the second university in the nation to grant both M.D. and D.O. medical degrees. In addition, Rowan comprises the William G. Rohrer College of Business; the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering; the colleges of Communication & Creative Arts; Education; Humanities & Social Sciences; Performing Arts; and Science & Mathematics; the School of Health Professions; the School of Earth & Environment and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Rowan is collaborating with regional leaders to create research and academic programs in health sciences. It has earned national recognition for innovation, commitment to high-quality, affordable education and developing public-private partnerships.