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The Lake News Online
  • How to talk to your children about the Conn. shooting

  • The reality is the repercussions of the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting can be felt here at Lake of the Ozarks.
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  • The reality is the repercussions of the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting can be felt here at Lake of the Ozarks.
    Dealing with this type of tragedy can be difficult for any age group but especially for children who may be experiencing fear and stress about returning to the classroom.
    Lake area family therapist Nancy Pope said parents can help their children in a number of ways.
    First and foremost, Pope recommends turning the news off. Even if parents think children aren't paying attention, chances are they are and they are absorbing the information.
    Pope said mental health professionals have learned that increased exposure to this type of horrific events leads to secondary post traumatic stress.
    Children may experience anxiety, including stress over separation and may feel at risk. Some children openly discuss their fears and worries, others won't.
    "It is important to answer their questions but keep it simple. Assure them their school is safe, that this was a rare event,"she said. "Keep things normal and routine. With the holiday season, it is a good time to celebrate the joy and spirit of the season. It gives hope and normalizes it for them."
    Eating healthy also helps, not only for children but adults who may also increase alcohol and tobacco use when feeling stressed or experiencing anxiety.
    Pope said to watch for signs that children may be at risk. Sleeplessness, nightmares and other changes in behavior are among the signs parents need to watch for. If those or other changes occur, she suggests seeking help from a school counselor, minister or mental health professional.
    Nancy Pope is a family therapist with Pathways.
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