These child victims either remain impaired or grow from their experiences, he said.
"This is where pediatricians can help shift the balance; by helping these children and families to emerge from these events with healthier coping abilities. There is an opportunity to promote post-traumatic growth that will make these children more resilient."
Pediatricians also can help children and families within their own communities to deal with the impact of tragedies, even those that occur many miles away.
"When a disaster like this happens you start to think of your own life experiences, difficulties you've had in the past, things you worry about for the future," said Dr. Schonfeld. "If pediatricians are sensitive to that and help kids who are struggling because of their own thoughts, fears and experiences, they are doing a lot. You don't have to go anywhere in the world to find adversity. Just look where you are."
Pediatricians should work collectively and within their communities to decrease violence, by advocating for meaningful change in gun laws, for example, and setting systems in place that prepare school and other officials for shootings and disasters in ways that minimize child exposure to these events.
Dr. Schonfeld said these goals can be a tall order for pediatricians.
"It's hard to be a pediatrician in good times, and tremendously challenging after a disaster. If you're a pediatrician in Newtown constantly seeing patients who are strugglingand it's like that after these major eventsthere's not an influx of financial and other resources to help with this response," said Dr. Schonfeld.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, though its Friends of Children Fund, is working to provide support to pediatricians in communities impacted by disaster, and mental health training for pediatricians so they are better prepared to help
|Contact: Debbie Jacobson|
American Academy of Pediatrics