OHSU offers parents advice on the subject of school shootings | News

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) is offering tips to help parents handle the subject of a Texas elementary school shooting with their children.

OHSU said today, “As medical professionals, we implore everyone with the capacity to act to come together and take immediate action to end this violence.”

“This is going to have emotional consequences for parents, families, children and schools across the country,” says George Keepers, MD, professor of psychiatry at OHSU School of Medicine. “It’s going to be difficult for parents to explain how this could happen in a primary school – and it will take time. Children can experience anxiety and they will need time to understand and cope.”

OHSU notes that its message “contains topics that can be active for survivors of gun violence and those who have been affected by gun violence.” The Confidential Advocacy Program (CAP) Helpline can be reached anytime at 833-495-2277.

Today, OHSU knows that parents may struggle to help children deal with trauma, understand tragedy, and deal with fear.

Ajit Jetmalani, a child psychiatrist at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, offers tips for parents to help their children cope with recent events:

  • Parents need to be aware of their own reactions to these tragedies, and try to refrain from alarming their children with verbal or non-verbal cues. Children often worry for their own safety or that of their family when they hear about tragedies. Children often follow their parents’ example of how to respond.
  • Create a sense of openness to discussion, but avoid pressuring children to talk. Each child’s reaction is unique to their personality, developmental stage and experiences.
  • Parents need to watch their children’s TV and make sure they are not too exposed to tragedies such as these. The reports are too fast for children to absorb. Moreover, children process this type of information very differently from adults and think about personal impacts more often than adults. Make sure children understand they are safe.
  • It is normal for parents to proactively talk to their children about these events, because they will probably hear about it later. Be sure to provide limited detail and emphasize the rarity of such occurrences.
  • Experts recommend not sharing details of these events with preschoolers and youngerunless they ask.
  • Encourage children to talk about how they feel and address those concerns.
  • Remind children how families help protect children; loving and supportive relationships can protect against anxiety.
  • Continue to set clear expectations and provide instructions on how to be generally safe in society. Reminding children and adolescents of the safety precautions they can take on a daily basis can promote an eventual return to a sense of safety in everyday life.
  • Look for signs that a child is having trouble managing their emotions: for young children; increased fear of separation, regression of skills (wetting the bed, not wanting to get dressed), hyperactivity or anger. For older children: increased isolation, irritability, and appearing withdrawn or disinterested in school and friends. If you see these problems, talk to your child and ask for help if needed.

“Parents strive to make the world as safe as possible for their children,” says Jetmalani. “When things like this happen, it feels like the shield is broken. We can’t control the horrific violence, but we can control how we express love and compassion on a daily basis.”

Oregonians can contact OHSU CAP 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at:

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Jessica C. Bell