Teaching children how to cope with violent death

6:35 PM, Dec 17, 2012   |    comments
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(WXIA) -- Death is one of the hardest things parents have to explain to their children. It used to be the norm for children, was to learn about death in an age appropriate manner and were introduced to this fact of life when they lost a beloved pet, or they encountered dealing with their first dead bugs.

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Unfortunately, the norm today has broken all boundaries of dealing with death in a natural and healthy way. Violence has forced parents of victims, children, mental health experts and professionals to take a more in-depth role in learning about grief and how to help our children through the process of that which is 'not' the norm.

As a result of the Newtown shootings, grief has spread world-wide shocking all of us and those in particular whom were introduced for the first time to falling victims of crime.

The 11 Alive Help Desk has researched ways that parents can help their children cope with violent crime.

How can you help your children cope with violent crime?

Children need to know that there are adults who can handle a difficult situation and can make them feel safe and loved. Extra love and reassurance is needed at this time. Don't leave the circumstances of death up to the child's imagination. They need to be told honestly, and depending on the age it is not a good idea to let them see graphics or descriptions. Young children should be told in very simple and basic terms.

Teenagers on the other hand, may want to know everything and they deserve to know all that surrounded the violent death.

You can create opportunities for children to discuss their feelings. Talk to them about the different stages of grief and explain that it is ok to express their anger, but encourage them to express it through writing, reading about it, or even drawing.

Children function best with routine. As soon as it is feasible, try to get your children back on a routine schedule. School, sport activities, church, etc.

A violent death leaves a negative picture and thoughts in a child's mind. Help them work their grief by making a memory scrapbook of their sibling or loved one using pictures and memories that are positive.

Support from family, friends and other personal resources such as your church or counselors, may be what is best for you and your family.

It can be helpful to check with a specialized counselor by phone or in-person to find out how you or your children are doing and get ideas for coping.

Counseling is helpful when the feelings and reactions are not gradually getting better, is getting worse or is interfering with functioning. Sometimes it is not for months or even years before a person decides that counseling might help. This is not unusual.

Medicine can help in some cases especially for adults or older teenagers who become very depressed, anxious or have trouble sleeping for a long time. You can check with your primary care health care provider or with a specialized counselor to see whether medicine might be a good idea.

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