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Talking with kids about abduction anxiety

September 27, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fresno Unified School District officials tell Action News counselors are working with students at the campus where a 10-year-old kidnapping and assault victim attends school.

The victim's classmates are talking with psychologists to process the frightening information they may be hearing about the kidnapping. And many parents may be wondering just how to do that at home.

Action News talked with a psychologist who says families should take this time to assess what she calls their 'fear management strategy.'

Dr. Susan Napolitano, Ph.D. said parents should answer any questions their children have about their safety in a way that's informative but not too scary.

The news of the girl's kidnapping and assault has left many around the valley frightened. Dr. Napolitano, a clinical psychologist in northwest Fresno, said when a child hears about the recent attack and expresses their own fears parents need to react.

"At those moments, really, all you can do is acknowledge the reality that horrible things happen... sometimes," Napolitano said. "Then you want to follow that with, but it's rare and it's unlikely. And here are the things we can do to make it even less likely that it happens to us."

But before talking with your kids Napolitano said parents should first work through their own anxiety. "You gotta come to terms with it yourself," she said. "That's the hard part."

"You don't want to have a talk with your child at that moment. You want to pull yourself together and sort out your own feelings and put them aside."

When you bring up safety with your children Dr. Napolitano advises it's important to remind them of these key practices:

-Vary their routine.
-Be aware of their surroundings.
-And travel in groups.

These will likely detour a potential offender.

Dr. Napolitano said walking your kids through a high-profile tragedy like the recent kidnapping is a balancing act.

"You want to generally feel safe, realistically safe in your environment while taking reasonable precautions," she said. "So you can be safe while you live."

For children with higher anxiety Dr. Napolitano suggests limiting their exposure to details of tragic events.


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