Helping kids understand events in Orlando

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Monday, June 13, 2016

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The massacre in Orlando has left many of us feeling fearful or hopeless.

And that can include children.

Psychologist Elizabeth Gosch of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine says parents shouldn't mention the attack to children under 5, unless they bring it up.

"You can just say it's a bad man who hurt people," she notes.

For kids over 5, parents SHOULD discuss it, but do it in simple terms with no graphic details.

"It's probably a good idea to just ask them - did they hear about the bad thing in Orlando?" says Dr. Gosch.

"And if they've heard about, you can ask them what they've heard," she continues.

And do it calmly, re-assuring kids they are safe & loved.

Teens may get graphic details on social media, so, "They may want to talk more about the details," she says.

"People who have prejudices, and why they hurt other people who aren't like them, or who don't agree with them," she continued.

She urges every family to think though it, and talk about it.

"It's an opportunity in the face of this terrible tragedy to help their children understand the world," she says.

But Dr. Gosch says they need balance.

"Such as people helping other people, people caring about what happened, people trying to make the world a safer place, so that these kinds of things don't happen, and how they can become involved in that," she adds.

Gosch says the flood of blood donors in Orlando is one example which shows that good can come out of this.

"My family was talking about this last night, I have two middle-school girls," she notes.

"They are at an age where we could talk about how, in the face of feeling so powerless or afraid, how they could do something to make the world a better place," Dr. Gosch adds.

As parents, she says, "It's OK to show it's sad for us, scary for us."

However, it's important to keep ourselves calm in these conversations, so that kids will feel calmer and more in control of their reactions.