Talking to Children about Community Violence

ByDavid Fassler, M.d.

April 17, 2007 — -- Once again, parents and teachers are faced with the challenge of discussing a tragic incident of community violence with children.

Although these may be difficult conversations, they are also important.

There are no "right" or "wrong" ways to talk with children about such traumatic events. However, here are some suggestions that may be helpful:

David Fassler, M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist practicing in Burlington, Vt. He is also a clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

Incidents of community violence are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, some young children may feel frightened or confused. As parents, teachers, and caring adults, we can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent, and supportive manner.

Fortunately, most children -- even those exposed to trauma -- are quite resilient. However, by creating an open environment where they feel free to ask questions, we can help them cope with stressful events and experiences, and reduce the risk of lasting emotional difficulties.

More information about helping children cope with violence and trauma is available at The National Child Traumatic Stress Network and SAMHSA's National Mental Health Information Center.

David Fassler, M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist practicing in Burlington, Vt. He is also a clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

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