Parents should talk to kids about tragic deaths of friends

Helping kids deal with grief and trauma

The death of a classmate can create traumatic grief in children. So the murder of an 11-year-old girl in Miami at the hands of her father could be difficult for many classmates to understand.

Experts at the Children’s Center in Joplin said open lines of communication are key to helping kids deal with their grief.

Parents should talk to their kids when a friend dies or is killed in a situation like the murder suicide Tuesday in Miami, Oklahoma.

Counselors at Children’s Center use a kid friendly environment so a child can be comfortable sharing their reactions and feelings to such news. That’s important for parents too. Teressa Berry, a clinical child therapist at Children’s Center, said parents should be the ones to inform a child of a classmate’s death and should do so before they return to school.

Berry said, “Fall break is in session and right now would be a great opportunity to have that open communication and talk about the tragedy that’s taken place. Um, and it may be easier for the child to process now, instead of showing up to school very first day and finding out their friend is not with them that day.”

Berry said children of different ages all react differently. Some will have questions like ‘Why?’ that a parent may not be able to answer. But it’s important to give them a chance to ask and express themselves.

She added, “Let them know that this tragedy has taken place and that it’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to feel scared, ok to feel worried. It’s just what you do with those emotions that can lead to other harmful behaviors. So, having that open line of communication with that parent and child is gonna help children process that trauma much better.”

Berry said another key is reassuring your child that they are safe and you support the emotions they are feeling. Some will express them others might hide them.

Miami schools will provide grief counselors on Monday for students, faculty and staff.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network also has tips for parents and schools on noticing when a child is distressed by a traumatic event. Links:,


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