How to talk to your kids about death

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The weekend shooting death of 7-year-old Terrez Coleman has triggered outrage among residents, and a deep grief among his family and friends. Dealing with a sudden and violent death is difficult for any person, but it can be especially hard for children.

Psychiatrist Dr. Marjorie Person with Capital Area Human Services District explains that it is challenging to help kids cope with death, because children do not process grief like adults. Person says that parents must balance addressing their child's concerns and not dwelling on the trauma.

"We don't want them to re-experience that trauma by us continuously bringing it up," said Person.

Person says to let your child come to you with concerns and address them when asked. She says it is important that your child know they can talk to you or another adult when they are ready. However, do not force your child to talk.

It's also important to reassure your child that they are safe. Let your child know that it is ok and normal to feel sad, and that some days they may feel better than others. Person says keeping to a normal routine will help.

"Keep their life as 'normal' as possible, keeping them in the activities that they enjoy. That's going to help them feel safe," said Person.

The psychiatrist also notes that kids do not express grief or even depression like adults. Where adults may act sad, Person says kids will often become irritable or act out. She says this is normal. However, if the behavior continues for a long time, or you find your child losing interest in school or other activities it may be time to seek help.

"You know the child better than anyone else. If you're worried, get help," said Person.

There are several options to find help. Parents can talk to a school counselor for advice. The Capital Area Human Services District also has Child Behavior Health Services. To make an appointment, call 225-922-0445 or 1-800-590-2849.

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