El Paso

How to talk to your children about traumatic events

Talking to teenage children about...

EL PASO, Texas - Students and staff with the Socorro Independent School District wore white Monday to honor the victims from Saturday's mass shooting.

The district also sent out a letter to parents with tips on how they could talk to their children after a traumatic event. 

The first tip encouraged parents to have an open conversation with their children to ensure that they get all the facts from them before they get incorrect information from children at school.

"They're gonna hear about it. What happened is so rare here in El Paso and everyone is in shock so they're going to go to school and somebody is going to talk about it and they're going to recieve that shock and you were not there to comfort them," said Lizet Lopez Longoria, a local Licensed Professional Counselor.

Letting a child know that you are interested in what they are feeling helps give them comfort and will make it easier for them to approach you with questions.

Different age groups cope with traumatic events differently.

Longoria encourages parents to have their younger children express their feelings through playing, art, writing or even through music. 

"Whatever they want to do because that's the language of children," said Longoria.

For teenagers, a healthy, safety touch is a simple way to assure them that you are there for them especially for teens who may not want to talk openly about their feelings.

"You just need to sit with them like when they were younger, and they had a scrape on their knee, and they just needed to look at you and have your touch to know everything is going to be ok. They need to have that reassurance. Sometimes it's just hugging them, sitting next to them and again encouraging them to write it out," said Longoria.

Limiting internet, television and other social media time is also encouraged for both age groups. Extra time spent watching the news can heighten a child's anxiety and fear.

"I think media time needs to be limited at this time especially for younger children. Find other activities outside like sport. For the older children of course they're going to be on their cell phones, and they're going to see what's happening in the media. We want to limit the time that they're on their phones, but we also want to talk to them about what they've seen, so we can help ease their fears and answer questions," said Tammi Mackeben, Director of School Counseling for SISD.

Parents also need to watch their children for signs of stress, fear or anxiety. Those symptoms could include a lack of sleep, difficulty concentrating or a change in appetite.

Although symptoms like those are normal for some people who are going through trauma, if a child continues to experience these symptoms after six weeks they are urged to seek professional help so their child can speak to a professional.

Longoria also urges parents to acknowledge the good in a bad situation.

"Something bad happened but also we need to let them know all the good things that happened. Like how the community came together and so many people are out there trying to help others. So load them up with the good. There was one bad person but look at how many more were good," said Longoria.

Here is a list of local resources for those needing counseling in the area:

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Project Vida

Emergence Health Network

Crisis Text line: Text: HOME to 741741

Mental Crisis Hotline: 1-877-541-7905


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