ST. LOUIS -- How do we deal with the images of violence, looting, and burning of the greater St. Louis community? How do parents speak to their children about Ferguson?
Dr. Cynthia Rogers is a child psychiatrist with Washington University. She stopped by NewsChannel 5 to provide some insight.
Adults and children will react differently, Rogers said. Adults have the benefit of understanding the context and knowing what's real, how frequent it can happen and that this is a rare event.
Children, on the other hand, don't have that context. If a child is exposed to this sort of coverage, it's important that the adult sits down with them and is available to explain what they're seeing, how rare it is, and that the child is safe.
It would be ideal if children were not exposed to violent images on television, including real events on the news. But we understand that parents may have it on and there child may just walk into the room.
Dr. Rogers suggests using a child lock on your television so that children don't watch the violent coverage on their own.
It's troubling for people to see places they've been in their community on fire or damaged. Feeling unsafe or unsettled is normal for those outside of the community as well.
Know that this is something that does not happen all the time, but don't feel surprised if it makes you unsettled or if it makes you feel offbeat or insecure about how safe you feel. But we have to remember that this is a rare event.
If a child comes to you with questions it's important to answer those questions honestly with age-appropriate language. However if a child is blissfully unaware and going about their daily life normally, you wouldn't necessarily want to sit them down and force this information upon them. Dr. Rogers suggests to follow your child's lead in how to share this information.
Some possibly giveaways to show your child is struggling:
- Not sleeping well
- Having nightmares
- Little bit more clingy than they normally would be
- Crying more often
- Appearing more nervous
Dr. Rogers says that routine is also extremely important right now. Things like school closures are just more unexpected changes to a child's life. Try to keep the structure of the child's day and routines the same whenever possible. That provides a scaffold for the child to feel safe.
The good thing is that most children can handle these sorts of events very well. But if a child has any pre-exisiting problems or an underlying propensity to be anxious or worrying, these sorts of events can affect them more.
But what if your child asks questions you can't answer? Dr. Rogers says the most important thing is to be honest. So if you don't know the answer, just tell them that. She says parents shouldn't make up any answers and says parents shouldn't minimize the child's questions or feelings.