Traumatic news, amidst the ongoing stress from the pandemic, has made this a crucial and difficult time for parents and their children. Following the events of the school shooting at Oxford High School, many children and teens may be experiencing feelings of confusion and anxiety. In an interview with WXYZ Channel 7 Detroit, Dr. Erin Hunter, director of the University Center for the Child and Family (UCCF) at MARI, shared her tips on how to talk with and help children cope after traumatic situations.
Starting the Conversation about Difficult Topics
Dr. Hunter, who herself is a mother of elementary-aged kids, says that having a structure to follow can be helpful, especially when parents themselves are feeling overwhelmed.
“Make sure you know what you want to say to kids before you say it,” she said. Discussing challenging topics can be hard, and one tip is to start the conversation in a quiet, calm time outside of scheduled activities.
By asking your kids questions and listening, it can help identify the kinds of support your children need. “Sometimes we want to jump to problem-solving when what really kids need is to be heard and understood,” she said, “because some of these things we don’t have answers to.” It’s also important to adjust the conversation based on the age and developmental level of your children.
Starting these conversations can be uncomfortable, but Dr. Hunter urges parents not to wait for an “okay” time to start talking to kids about difficult topics, especially if you notice changes in a child’s behavior.
Watch the full interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HhgvwNTgT8
Tips for Talking with Children about Difficult Topics: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bABsQLci-kZJegI5gMBhEOUwErIZD2z_cu_H_cIQ3ek/edit
Dr. Hunter is a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in a variety of evidence-based psychotherapies for children, adolescents, and families, including parent management training, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and acceptance and mindfulness treatments. She received a Ph.D. in Clinical Child Psychology from the University of Washington, completed an internship at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and came to Michigan for a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical child psychology at UCCF. She became interim director of UCCF in 2020.
About the University Center for the Child and Family (UCCF)
The University Center for the Child and Family (UCCF) is committed to helping children and families enjoy a happier life, more satisfying relationships, and increased success. UCCF is part of the Mary A. Rackham Institute (MARI) at the University of Michigan. MARI provides high-quality, individualized mental health, neuropsychological testing, and language and literacy services to the community through its service centers, including UCCF, University Center for Language and Learning (UCLL), and University Psychological Clinic.