June 5, 2014 11:35 am

How to talk to your kids about the shooting and manhunt in Moncton

WATCH: RCMP confirmed that the suspect was seen at least once Thursday morning and that they will apprehend suspect at all costs.

Heavily armed RCMP officers in Moncton, N.B., continue to hunt for a gunman suspected of killing three officers and injuring two others.

The Maritime city is on lockdown as the suspect – who is considered “armed and dangerous” – is still at large.

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Global News

“This is not even close to being a typical day in New Brunswick, Moncton or even in Canada,” said New Brunswick RCMP Commanding Officer Roger Brown in a press conference Thursday morning.

News is quickly flooding in from the Internet, television and radio as the manhunt trudges on. And, unfortunately, it’s one tragedy in a handful of others that have left families and communities shaken.

READ MORE: Manhunt in Moncton continues – alleged shooter spotted Thursday morning

Following grisly events, such as the Boston Marathon Bombings and Sandy Hook school shooting, parents’ hands may be full in trying to explain these tragic events to their children.

“Whenever there’s a trauma like this, you only give as much information as (kids) need to know,” Dr. Oren Amitay, a registered psychologist told Global News during the Boston manhunt.

“For a young child, they can’t process what’s happened like an adult so to them that kind of confrontation sounds like the entire world is a scary, unpredictable, dangerous place and they can be a victim at any point. You do not want to convey that to your child,” he said.

READ MORE:  Shock, sadness, fear as Moncton shooting plays out on Twitter

Global News spoke with experts and compiled research on how to talk to children about these tragedies.

Monitor your family’s media intake

Try to have some control over how much news your household is consuming. Consider a child’s surroundings: his or her parents may be scrambling to call loved ones as television reports pour in with gruesome images on loop. Control what your kids are seeing and filter out any disturbing or frightening images.

This is especially the case if you have young children, Alyson Schafer, a psychotherapist, author and parenting expert explained last April. “Turn off the radio and television – read all your information online,” she said. “Even a toddler or baby who you think isn’t watching anything is seeing terrible facial expressions, dark smoke and they may be internalizing some of it,” she said.

Only provide as much information as they need

This varies depending on the age of your child, his or her maturity level and how anxious they are. Tragedies need to be explained in a way that kids can understand and offers basic information, depending on what they ask.

If you have kids a few years older who are aware of the situation, answer their questions but without too much elaboration. “If they ask if anyone has died, tell them only as much as they need to know,” Amitay said. “I’ve heard parents say that kids need to know all of this and you’re street-proofing them. No, you’re traumatizing the kids,” Amitay said.

Provide reassurance to your kids

Post-manhunt, your kids may look at their neighbourhood in a different way. Your kids are looking to you for reassurance that their community is safe, that they won’t be harmed in public and that there are protections in place, Schafer said.

“That is really our job as parents – bad things happen but we are safe.” They’re wondering if they’ll be safe, if their parents, the people who take care of them, will be safe and how these events will affect their daily lives. Reassure them that they’re in safe hands.

Ask your kids what they know and discuss current events regularly

For older children, you can ask them calmly if they’ve heard about something bad that happened and see how they react. You want to ask them what they’ve heard, what people are talking about at school and let them know that you can answer any questions they have. Help to clarify anything they’re unsure of or don’t understand. Don’t push the subject onto them, though, Schafer said.

Help them through the healing process

In order for us to overcome trauma, people tend to come together to show solidarity and make meaning of what’s happened. If holding a vigil, writing a letter or a card and even saying a prayer at dinner helps your kids cope, it may ease them through the healing. “That is the processing part,” Schafer said. “See what really stirs your child,” she suggested.

Return to established routines

When random acts of violence take place, people feel a sense of loss of control. Parents should try to regain that routine and offer kids a return to a safe, secure and calm environment, Schafer said. “The more you can do things routinely, you are trying to show them life moves on. Life is safe, life is predictable,” she said. Show them that their daily lives are the same and haven’t turned to chaos.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© Shaw Media, 2014

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