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Parents Key to Easing Psychological Impact of Conn. Shootings
Date:12/15/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Details were still emerging about the horrific shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut Friday morning that has killed more than two dozen people, most of them children. But talk is already turning to how to help children and adults both near and far away cope with the tragedy.

The mass shooting is one of the worst in U.S. history. People in Newton, Conn., and nearby communities "are going to have a very strong stress reaction in the immediate period following any kind of traumatic event," said Elissa Brown, a professor of psychology at St. John's University in New York City.

That's especially true given the other tragedies this region has suffered recently, including Hurricane Sandy, which left many without heat and hot water for weeks after the storm.

And earlier this week, an eerily familiar shooting took place at a mall in Portland, Ore., where a gunman left two people dead.

Worried parents at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton need, first and foremost, to make sure their children are physically safe, Brown said.

But the psychological toll will be tough on both children and adults alike. In an address to the nation Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama said that "there is not a parent in the U.S. who does not feel the same overwhelming grief as I do," the Washington Post reported.

As soon as physical safety has been established, the children and adults need to know they have emotional support, experts said.

"Social support for various kinds of trauma has been shown over and over again to be key to resilience," Brown said. "It's to know you have someone to lean on."

Children, no matter where they live, also need to be able to express their feelings about what happened, the psychologist said.

This doesn't mean encouraging them to tell the story over and over again, or allowing
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