How to help children process trauma in a healthy way

Expert says parents need to create a safe space for discussion

Helping kids deal with trauma
Helping kids deal with trauma

As the St. Johns County Sheriffs Office continues to investigate the killing of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey, many parents are wondering how to talk with their children about the trauma of losing a member of the community.

On “The Morning Show,” News4Jax spoke Sunday with Colleen Rodriguez, the CEO of Jewish Family and Community Services, about the case that has been in the spotlight for the last week and the details that are difficult to hear.

Rodriguez said that when talking with children and peers about this kind of sensitive subject, you need to make sure everyone is getting the right information -- especially children because this can be used as a learning opportunity.

“Make sure they are able to talk about it in a safe space, that you are able to correct any false beliefs or false information that they have,” Rodriguez said. “You need to really think about your child’s age and development. Little ones may not even be aware that this has happened, and so I wouldn’t encourage you to bring it up.”

Helping Children Process Trauma
Helping Children Process Trauma

She said middle schoolers and teenagers closer to Bailey’s age may have more information because they have greater access to it. Rodriguez recommends limiting time on social media.

“Some horrific things have been done on social media on this case. Inappropriate not truthful information is coming out -- making sure that your children know this and know they do not have to believe everything they are seeing on social media,” she said.

RELATED: Psychiatrist offers recommendations on how to talk with your child about Tristyn Bailey’s death

According to experts, it is important to give your children the opportunity to tell you what they are seeing and hearing so you have the chance to address it with them.

Rodriguez also said it is important to sit down with your children and create a safe space for them to talk to you.

“Find out what they are thinking. Don’t assume you know what your child is thinking and how they are interpreting things,” she said.

Rodriguez thinks this is the time to talk to your children about safety measures you can take as a family and how your children can be a part of that process while figuring out how to make them feel safe.

Rodriguez said you can also talk with your family about how this is a time to grieve and honor Bailey.


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