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Listening is key to help kids cope with tragedy, psychiatrist says

Eddie Garcia
December 08, 2017 11:46 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- It's becoming too common of a question: How do you talk to your kids about school shootings, especially if they were there when it happened? A UNM psychiatrist says it's all about listening.

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Officials at UNM Hospital say their staff is always preparing to deal with mass shootings, but they say it goes beyond the wounds can be seen. It also has to do with what's going on up here for the students who are affected by the shooting.

Dr. Shawn Sidhu, training director of child and adolescent psychiatry at UNM, said it's often difficult for parents and students to deal tragic school shootings because it's supposed to be a safe place. He said directly after the shooting, it's normal for introverted children to withdraw even further while extroverted children may become more irritable.

"Probably the most likely thing you would experience is an increase in anxiety, which would be worrying or nervousness about your safety and something like this happening again," he said.

However, Sidhu said parents should keep an eye out for more concerning signs especially after three or four weeks have passed. It may mean the child needs professional help. In extreme cases, he said children may try to hurt themselves.

"Not sleeping well, not eating, their energy level is just dragging throughout the day, can't focus in school, the same things that bring them joy don't bring them joy anymore -- that would concern me," he said.

Sidhu said parents have the power to help children heal, and it's simpler than some people may think.

"It's having an adult they can trust and talk to," he said. "And even if they don't -- teenagers don't talk, but just knowing they could talk is incredibly helpful, probably more helpful than anything else."

Sidhu said kids are resilient and will bounce back in time.

"What's the most important for them is re-establishing their routine as soon as possible because the quicker you re-establish it, the more that they're able to get over this hurdle and keep going," he said.

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Eddie Garcia

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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