Stories about: Dr. Claire McCarthy

Talking to children after tragedy

Our thoughts and prayers are with the city of Paris.

As the news unfolds, here are some suggestions for parents (adapted from our advice after the Connecticut shootings and Boston Marathon bombings):

  • Tell your children what happened — it’s important they hear it from you. Do it in a broad-strokes way. (“There were explosions and shootings in Paris, and some people were hurt.”)
  • Answer their questions simply and honestly. (Again, do this in a broad-strokes way — details aren’t necessary)
  • Limit their exposure to media. It’s hard not to end up glued to the television, especially as events are unfolding, but it may be very upsetting to children. Use your laptop or smart phone instead.
  • Make sure they know that events like these are very rare. It’s usually very safe to be in public places.
  • Let them know that you, and other helping adults, are working all the time to keep them safe. Talk about some of the ways you do this.
  • Understand that they, like you, may need time to process what has happened. They may be upset but not even know why, so be patient if they act out in unusual ways.
  • If your child is very sad or anxious and nothing you are doing is helping, call your doctor.
  • Give lots of extra hugs. They will help you, too.

These resources may be helpful:

Talking with Kids About News, from PBS Parents. They also have tips on communication strategies.

Helping Children Cope with Tragedy-Related Anxiety, from Mental Health America

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a number of resources on their healthychildren.org website.

 

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Six Ways to Give Your Child a Healthy Heart for Life

February is heart month—a great time to think about heart health. While we tend to think of heart disease as a problem of adults, it can start in childhood—and the health habits of childhood have everything to do with heart health in adulthood.

So as we finish up February, here are six things that parents can do to give their children the best chance of a healthy heart for life:

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The Problem–and Gift–of Perspective

Last weekend there was a baptism during Mass at church. A baby boy named Zachary was baptized, and we all clapped when his father held him up, head wet from the font.

I have a boy named Zachary. And this baby looked just like Zack did as a baby: fair with long legs and hardly any hair. All of a sudden I was thrown back in time to Zack’s baptism twenty years ago, to everything I was feeling and living then. My eyes filled with tears, thinking about my 6-foot-2 son being small enough to fit in my arms.

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To prevent underage drinking, parents need to talk with their kids early and often.

A study came out this week showing that 7th graders who were exposed to alcohol ads—and liked them—were more likely to have problems with alcohol in high school.

Let’s be honest: When was the last time you talked about alcohol ads with your kids? I don’t mean in a “Wow, that was a cool ad they had on during the Super Bowl” kind of way. I mean in a, “Wow, they really make drinking alcohol look cool, don’t they? But drinking alcohol can really get people into lots of trouble—let’s talk about it” kind of way.

I’m going to bet most of you haven’t.

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