Sheila Rauch, PhD, is the Clinical Director of the Emory University Veterans Program, Associate Professor at Emory University School of Medicine, and Director of Mental Health Research Program Evaluation at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, as well as an ADAA board member.
Dr. Rauch has been providing PTSD and Anxiety Disorders treatment for over 20 years. She is currently Principal Investigator of two PTSD treatment outcome and mechanisms trials including a DOD funded, multi-site PTSD treatment trial comparing prolonged exposure and sertraline and a VA/DOD collaboratively funded trial examining biomarkers in active duty military service members completing psychotherapy. She has served as a VHA Prolonged Exposure Therapy Roll Out Trainer since the start of the program.
With the deluge of information on this event, it is highly likely that your children, preteens, and teens have heard a lot about the event and may have even seen some of the highly graphic video coverage of the shooting itself and the aftermath. The key message for parents to convey after exposure to any type of trauma or violence is to ensure that your child feels safe and loved.
Give them an open invitation to talk with you about the incident. If your child has seen coverage of the event, make sure you talk with them about what they think about it and how they think it impacts their life and the world around them. Such discussion should fit the developmental level of the child using the child’s words and understanding as much as possible.
Make sure the child has a chance to feel the strong emotions that may come up in response this shooting. Let them know that most people are upset by this type of event and feeling angry and scare and sad is normal when a shooting occurs.
Normalize the reactions the child may be having. Provide direction that in this case, viewing video coverage of what happened may not be helpful and that they should talk with you if they see something disturbing online.
Let them know that the feelings they may have will most reduce over time but if they are not getting better with time there are good resources for people who can help with effective treatment available.
As much as parents can provide a clear sense of safety for their children this will help to reduce the impact of the event. Consider talking about what they think happened, how they feel about what happened, and what they think needs to happen now to prevent this from happening again.