Talking to children about a major event like the mass-shooting in Las Vegas can leave parents at a loss for words, but the Provincial Medical Director for Addictions and Mental Health with AHS is offering some advice.
Dr. Nick Mitchell explains that it is important to keep in mind the age of the child and the stage that they are at. He adds that younger kids may have no awareness, but school-aged kids may hear things on the news, through the internet or on the playground.
“It is really important to understand what their understanding is of what happened and that can vary considerably by age,” said Mitchell “Younger children may or may not come to their parents with questions when something happens. For adolescents, often they don’t. They may be discussing things with peer groups.”
Mitchell recommends that, depending on the child’s age, it is better to not overwhelm them with details that they may not understand.
“Provide the information that they want to know as opposed to providing information that may be beyond their level of understanding. There is no easy or single way to approach things. A lot of it is dependent on the kid and their level of maturity or how personally they feel affected. Often, with younger kids, disasters that happen on the news or elsewhere is hard for them to put into context.”
With one of the 59 killed in the shooting from Valleyview, local communities have been impacted. He says in a situation like this one of the biggest challenges is parents being traumatized as well.
“I think it is important for people to recognize their own ability to cope and that if they feel that they may not be able to handle things, expecting the child to handle that degree of emotion is probably not realistic.”
It is recommended that people talk to their peers about what they are feeling. If they feel deeply impacted by an event around the world or in their community, reaching out to a mental health professional or calling 811, the Health Link line, is the next step. There is a mental health clinic located on the fourth and sixth floor in the Nordic Court Building in Grande Prairie (pictured). For those in the Valleyview area, there is a clinic available on 50th Avenue.