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LSU Health Foundation

LSU Health New Orleans Offers Expertise to Cope with Terrorism

“We know that events of this type can be frightening for children, adolescents and their parents, and through our Center, we will provide families resources and tips to help promote ways to share and have conversations in difficult times,” notes Dr. Joy Osofsky, Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.

“We also provide resources for media outlets to share as part of the media cycle surrounding the Manchester violence,” says Dr. Howard Osofsky, Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.

For all concerned: It is important to distinguish and talk about Possibility vs. Probability.  Children (and adults) need to understand and be able to talk about the fact that these events happen, but they are rare.

For communities: It is very important for communities to be prepared for a possible terrorist attack by not only being vigilant to try to prevent terrorism, but also by taking steps to inform people about what to do it if an attack occurs. It is imperative for people to follow the instructions of trusted officials, seek safety, and be given knowledge about loved ones as soon as possible after the incident to avoid further confusion.

Start a conversation with your children or adolescents. Ask your child what they know or understand already and help to correct false information or fill in the gaps.  It is important to remember that young children express feelings differently, often through behavior or emotions.  Encourage them to draw or play out their feelings in a way that is comfortable for them. When talking to your children, be sure to share your own feelings in a way that they can understand so that they will learn they are not alone; knowing that can be helpful to them.  It is normal and healthy for your child to have strong feelings; reassure them by saying, “That was really scary,” instead of just trying to comfort them by saying, “Don’t worry about it.”  Let them know you will be there for them and that it’s all right to share how you feel.

Reassure your family. Recognize that fear is an understandable response, but also that there are organizations and individuals (other adults, the government, law enforcement, the military) taking actions to keep them safe. Do not deny that something bad has happened and that situations can be serious; however, let them know that you will be there to share the information they need, help them remain calm, and move them away from immediate fear.  This is also a time when a parent or family member can promote tolerance, explain prejudice, and avoid stereotyping.

Look for physical signs of stress. Remember that every child is different and that some children can explain how they are feeling better than others.  Signs of anxiety or stress include unexplained aches, such as headaches or stomach aches, trouble sleeping, and changes in behavior.  Let children know you are there for them, but also spend time with them playing and doing fun activities to relieve stress.

Limit media exposure. While it is important to stay informed of serious events, too much television showing violent imagery can contribute to anxiety following a terrorist attack.  It is also important to limit other media exposure so that a child is not constantly reminded of the event.  And, it should be recognized that younger children may have difficulty telling the difference between the continual reporting and reality and may mistakenly think the event is occurring over and over.

Social media present different challenges. Before sharing information, make sure it is from a credible source. You don’t want to feed hysteria, so don’t spread content, graphic images and information, that add nothing but fear. Think before your hit that share or retweet button. Spreading terror is just what terrorists want.

How to seek additional help:

Faculty at LSU Health New Orleans Terrorism and Disaster Center for Child and Family Resilience can provide additional information. Parents can also visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website at  NCTSN has a wealth of resources about talking to your family about terrorism as well as many other kinds of disasters.