WASHINGTON -- Following the killings of more than 125 people in a coordinated series of terror attacks in Paris, American Humane Association issued these tips for parents and other caregivers to help children cope with the fear and uncertainty caused by this tragedy:
- Keep an eye on children's emotional reactions. Talk to children – and just as important – listen to them. Encourage kids to express how they feel and ask if anything is worrying them.
- Regardless of age, reassure them frequently of their safety and security, and reinforce that you, local officials, and their communities are working to keep them safe. Older children may seem more capable, but can also be affected.
- Keep your descriptions to children simple and limit their exposure to graphic information. Keep to the basic facts that something bad happened but that they are safe. Use words they can understand and avoid technical details and terms such as "Isis," "grenades" or "suicide bombers."
- Limit their access to television and radio news reports since young children may have trouble processing the enormity of the experience, and sometimes believe that each news report may be a new attack.
- Be prepared for children to ask if such violence can occur to them. Do not lie but repeat that it is very unlikely and that you are there to keep them safe.
- Watch for symptoms of stress, including clinginess, stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, trouble eating or sleeping, or changes in behavior.
- If you are concerned about the way your children are responding, consult your doctor, school counselor or local mental health professional.
"Children are especially vulnerable at a time like this," Dr. Robin Ganzert, president & CEO of American Humane Association, said. "Parents, teachers, and other caregivers need to be especially sensitive to how children are reacting and help them cope with their fears and feelings. The best thing is to talk to children now and in the weeks to come to ensure they receive the attention they need in dealing with this tragedy."