When a child witnesses a tragedy

Psychologist & Author David Palmiter, PhD, ABPP, shares advice for parents on the best method for helping your child after he or she witnesses a tragedy
How To Help A Child Who Witnesses A Tragedy - Expert Parenting Advice
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When a child witnesses a tragedy

If your child witnesses a tragedy, I think the important thing to keep in mind is we want to let our child know that we are available to talk but not force them to. I think sometimes we well-intended adults - parents, we try to think that talking about it is always good. And sometimes kids cope with trauma by not talking. And making them talk actually worsen but we want to let them know that we are available to talk. If they begin to talk to us, we want to show empathy and not try to fix it. No engaged parent is happier than their least happy child. When our kids hurt, we hurt worse. And we want to jump in and make it all better right away thereby having the exact opposite effect that we intend. We want them to have full bedding, give them empathy for it and then leave the formula crisis equals pain plus opportunity. The pain is like a dragon guarding treasure as one poet put it. If we can get a full bedding of the pain then we can looking for the opportunity that's imbued on that situation. They are like Siamese twins. The pain and the opportunity. Maybe we can start a letter campaign to the people who have suffered, maybe we can draw some art around it, maybe we can have a very involved and helpful discussion about suicide or whatever the trauma is or reassure the kid about their own safety. So, that's why really the step, open the door, don't insist, provide empathy then look for the opportunity .

Psychologist & Author David Palmiter, PhD, ABPP, shares advice for parents on the best method for helping your child after he or she witnesses a tragedy


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David Palmiter, PhD, ABPP

Psychologist & Author

Dr. David Palmiter is a professor of Psychology and Counseling at Marywood University. He is a practicing and board-certified clinical psychologist, a past president of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the author of over three dozen publications, including two books on promoting resilience in youth, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (true of < 6% of psychologists), the American Academy of Clinical Psychology and the Pennsylvania Psychological Association in youth. He has also given hundreds of workshops on family issues for organizations such as The Navy SEAL Foundation, The Master Therapist Series at the University of Connecticut, The American Psychological Association and the McGraw-Hill Financial Group and completed hundreds of media projects for outlets such as CNN, The New York Times, US News and World Report and the Wall Street Journal. David is also a dad of three (two studying at Cornell University and one still in high school) and husband of 27 years to Dr. Lia Richards-Palmiter. A central aspect of his professional mission is to put air under the wings of parents as they try to raise happy and resilient children and teens.

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