There has been a lot of criticism of the news media interviewing children right after the mass shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. As part of the news media, I don't normally criticize the news media. I know they have a job to do. Cover the news. Interview witnesses. Get ratings! (Hey, that is part of their job.) "A police officer came in and told us to run outside and so we did," one young unidentified girl told NBC News.
But I agree with the criticism. News media should not be interviewing children. And parents shouldn't allow their children to be interviewed right now.
The children in that school are bound to be in shock right now. They haven't even processed what just happened. How the next few weeks shake out will determine a lot about what happens with their thoughts and emotions going forward.
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Studies have shown that talking about a tragedy immediately afterwards -- and talking, and talking, and talking about it -- deepens the neural pathways, making that groove in the brain that much more deep and difficult to ease later on. NOT that children (or adults for that matter) shouldn't talk about a tragedy. In fact, talking about it is one of the main things that facilitates healing.
But children should be allowed to process difficult emotions in their own time. That might mean that the parents bring them home, gently ask them if they'd like to talk, and if the answer is no, asking them what they'd like to do. Maybe they want to watch a cartoon. Maybe they want to go to bed. Maybe play with a pet. Maybe they want to talk about what happened. So you let them talk, and you listen. You let them do whatever they want to do. If they want to sleep with you, let them do it.
You do NOT get them on a national TV show to go over what happened, and to get into detail about the fear they felt and horror they witnessed. Let them do that next week. Or next month. Or never.
If, after a few weeks, the child doesn't want to talk about it at ALL, then you can deal with that then. It may need to be done under professional supervision. In time, it's good to get a child back into a regular routine, but right now he or she is just processing. They may not even show any extreme emotion right now. It may all come out later.
Eventually, it's good to gently point out a few things on that horrible day that may have been positive. Were their teachers leading them to safety? Are their friends okay? Did they notice all of the officers who came to help? For children to feel safe in this world, it's essential for them to know that incidents like this are not the norm, and that most people are essentially good.
Do you think children should speak to the media?
Image via AOL