Doctors say teaching kids about tragedy should be done with care

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 18, 2013 at 5:37 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 22 at 1:14 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

HARVEY, La. -- The murder of a 6-year-old Harvey girl upset an entire community. It's hard enough for adults to cope with the news, but what about children who see this happening?

Too often children witness the aftermath of violence, the crime scene, a devastated parent. People bring children to the scene, some hoping to teach them a lesson, scare them straight, about the dangerous world.

Experts say don't do it.

"That is not effective. It is traumatizing to children to see a little body and a sheet being carried out. We have a lot of community violence and gunshots, and to see a blood scene is horrific for young children," said LSU Health Sciences Center clinical psychologist Dr. Amy Dickson.

Even children too young to talk will remember the trauma. Dr. Dickson says children need to be shielded from terrible things. It doesn't teach, it frightens them. Never volunteer the gruesome details or more information than they already know. Let them ask questions and give broad, simple, age-appropriate answers.

"What we may say to them is, 'Yes, a little girl did die and it is very sad.' And well, what happened to her mommy? 'Well, somebody hurt her,'" Dr. Dickson explained while role playing.

Most crime against children is by someone known by the family. People must be thoroughly screened before they are allowed access alone with your child.

"Another thing that's really important to do with children is to talk from a very young age, that there are no secrets from their caregiver. You want to start talking about body parts and bodies and what are private parts and what does it mean that it's private verses public," she explained.

And understand that scientific research has not yet uncovered an effective treatment for child sex offenders.

"There is no rehab for pedophiles. They (researchers) are trying lots and lots and lots of different techniques, but we have yet to find anything that is 100 percent successful," stressed Dr. Dickson.

And doctors say no matter how much you teach children about 'stranger danger', their brains are just not developed enough to understand that someone with a puppy or candy can still be dangerous.

 

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