Health Advice



Ask the Pediatrician: How do I explain shootings and other disturbing news to my children?

Dr. David J. Schonfeld, American Academy of Pediatrics on

Published in Health & Fitness

Parents who have a child with a developmental delay or disability should gear their responses to their child’s developmental level or abilities, rather than their physical age. If you have a teenage child whose level of intellectual functioning is similar to a 7-year-old, for instance, gear your response toward his or her developmental level. Start by giving less information. Provide details or information in the most appropriate and clear way you can.

What’s helpful to a child with an autism spectrum disorder may be different. For instance, the child may find less comfort in cuddling than some other children. Parents should try something else that does calm and comfort their child on other occasions.

Parents may see signs that children are having difficulty adjusting. Some things to look for are:

— Sleep problems: Watch for trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, nightmares or other sleep disturbances.

— Physical complaints: Children may complain of feeling tired, having a headache or stomachache, or simply feeling unwell.

— Trouble concentrating: It may be harder for children to focus in school or to complete their homework if they are upset about a tragedy that has occurred.

— Changes in behavior: Look for signs of regressive behavior, including acting more immature or becoming less patient and more demanding. A child who once separated easily from her parents may become clingy.


— Emotional problems: Children may experience undue sadness, depression, anxiety or fears.

If you are concerned about how your children are coping, talk with your pediatrician.



Dr. David J. Schonfeld is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. He also is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information, go to, the website for parents from the AAP.

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