Mental health experts say dialog is key for kids who witness violent crimes

Mental health experts say dialog is key for kids who witness violent crimes
Aimee Drescher, Ph.D, is a clinical psychologist and the director of psychological services at Unison Behavioral Health Group in Toledo. (Source: WTOL)
Aimee Drescher, Ph.D, is a clinical psychologist and the director of psychological services at Unison Behavioral Health Group in Toledo. (Source: WTOL)

(WTOL) - It's a tough conversation parents have with their kids more and more often. In the last two days, children in our area have been exposed to gun violence in domestic situations, both directly and indirectly.

Local experts say this type of exposure can have a lasting impact on kids lives. The best thing parents can do is talk about it and make sure kids understand they are still safe despite recent violent events.

Aimee Drescher, Ph.D, is a clinical psychologist and the director of psychological services at Unison Behavioral Health Group in Toledo.

"It's going to look different for different kids," Dr. Drescher said.

Dr. Drescher is referring to the shooting where a man allegedly opened fire on two adults at a school bus stop. The couple were getting their four kids on the bus and off to school. The shooting is believed to be rooted in a domestic dispute between the man who opened fire and the couple who were shot. The mother has since died from the gunshot wounds.

The four children who lived at the home and the 11 already on the bus were, at some point, all exposed to this tragic scene. Local mental health experts said the school and the first responders all acted with the kids' best interest in mind.

"At the highest level, the community responded appropriately and immediately which is what you can ask for when you're dealing with acute crisis," Dr. Drescher said.

Dr. Drescher added that follow up is key with traumatic incidents like these.

"What we really want is continued follow up with mental health providers to make sure that the kids needs are taken care of," she said. "Every kid is going to respond differently to witnessing an incident such as this."

Experts encourage parents to talk to their kids to make sure what they understand is accurate.

"It's important for us to not be afraid to talk about it and ask what they know about it and what they understand and not put our reactions on to our children," Dr. Drescher said.

Experts say it's important to remember that children will base their understanding of a violent situation on how the adults in their lives react to it. Letting kids know they are safe is important immediately after a violent incident.

For more information on resources for families and children, go to Unison's website.

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