Talking about tragedy: Parents should offer space for children to grieve

By WVUA 23 News Reporter Savannah Denton

Losing a classmate is a traumatic experience for students of any age, so ensuring they have a space where they can talk about what happened can help them cope and feel secure.

So how do you talk to your children when they’ve experienced an unexpected tragedy?

Social worker and Family Counseling Services Executive Director Larry Deavers said just being there is the most important thing.

“Be present with your child,” he said. “Sometimes a physical touch can communicate a lot. Be open to answering questions. Checking in with them is important. But also don’t put a lot of pressure on them to communicate with you.”

While some children may have a lot to say about their feelings, others are more likely to keep their emotions private.

Deavers said both responses are normal, but parents should look out for changes in their child’s mood or routines. Changes indicate a child may be struggling.

“If they are typically of a certain personality, maybe more outgoing, and now they don’t do the things they used to enjoy or are secluded in their room, thing of taking the child to get professional care,” said Deavers.

Paul W. Bryant High School Principal Lydia Edwards said grief counselors are on-hand this week in the wake of the sudden death of student Madison Sims, who died over the weekend in a crash alongside another teen. Two other teens were injured.

“We have social workers and counselors from other schools within the district as well as our school,” Deavers said. “Students have an adult readily available. All they have to do is express that need. Even if they want to sit in silence, or reflect through writing, whatever they need, we have so many support systems at this time.”

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