Children should be limited to media exposure about the massacre that took 12 lives at a Batman screening in Colorado, and parents may need to talk to kids and get their reactions, mental health experts at Children's Hospital Los Angeles said today.
But not every child needs to know about it, said Susan K. Gorry, a child life specialist at the hospital's Child Life program.
"If your child hasn't heard about the tragedy in Colorado, we don't suggest starting the conversation," Gorry said. But you never know when your child might hear about it from another child or family, she noted.
"This is a traumatic event for everyone -- a tragic occurrence around a summer blockbuster movie," said Dr. Bradley Hudson, a USC doctor and clinical psychologist at Children's Hospital.
And incessant TV coverage is a bad thing, he said. "You don't want your older children being immersed in it," he said. "To the extent possible, monitor their exposure.
"If it's on TV, participate with them and reassure them that they are safe."
The hospital's doctors posted a list of recommended steps for parents, including not underestimating the impact; putting the tragedy in perspective; and mourning the loss together with kids.
It is also important for adults and peers to allow children to express unexpected reactions, such as a sense of happiness that they do not know anyone who was hurt, CHLA doctors said.
Children with prior exposure to trauma should be watched closely for the next few weeks, said CHLA's Dr. Karen Rogers. Such kids could "re-experience their past trauma or this trauma by playing it over again in their minds," she said.
"They can talk a lot about it or experience nightmares, avoidance, numbing feelings or a reduced range of emotions," Rogers said. "It's not unlike a soldier who has been traumatized by war."
Parents were urged by the doctors to get help if feelings of anxiety persist. "If your child seems more tightly-wound -- having difficulty sleeping and concentrating or experiencing extreme emotions -- talk to your pediatrician or a counselor.
"Seek extra support," she urged. "There is effective therapy for trauma and it is helpful."
Did you talk to your children at all about the shootings in Aurora, Colo.? If so, how did you address it with them?