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Therapist: Parents should be transparent with children when addressing traumatic events at school

Children need to be reassured that they are safe.

INDIANAPOLIS — Tragedies cause grief and confusion for everyone, especially kids.

Classes at IPS School 57 were canceled Wednesday, and the district is offering crisis support to students and staff after Tuesday's crosswalk crash where a car hit and killed a 7-year-old girl and hurt her mother and another person.

It's a conversation no parent wants to have with their child: how to deal with a tragedy at school.

"As traumatic as it is for our kids, it's also a really traumatic thing for parents. We are sending our kids to school expecting them to be safe. Then, we are getting calls about something happening at school where they are not safe, and that's a really scary thing for a parent," said Aaron Hensley, a licensed clinical social worker. 

Unfortunately, that's a conversation some IPS parents are had to have with their children. Hensley said its important parents are transparent and address traumatic events with their children.

"That is one of the easiest things to do to prevent the continuation of acute stress reactions, is to take preventative measures and talk to our kids as soon as we can about what they're experiencing, and validate their emotions and their experiences. Also, reassuring them that they are safe, and the school Is doing what they can to keep them safe," said Hensley. 

Even after the conversation, Hensley said parents should keep an eye out for changes in their child's behavior.

"Extreme anxiety with going to school, and being in school, chronic stomachaches, chronic headaches, feeling extremely unmotivated, having a hard time expressing feelings," said Hensley.

IPS has crisis counselors available to students and staff. Hensley hopes parents take advantage of the resource.

"It's going to help their mental state in the long run. It's going to help prevent long term illnesses," said Hensley.

As of Thursday morning, a PayPal account collecting funds for the families has raised more than $17,000. Click here to donate.

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