Social worker offers advice to help children cope with tragedy

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Coping with IMPD Officer Perry Renn’s death isn’t only difficult for adults to understand, but also children.

Experts say it can difficult for them to handle all the violence happening around the city, as well as express how it makes them feel.

24-Hour News 8 spoke with a social worker today and one thing she made clear is that children are exposed to violence whether it’s in their own homes or out in the community.

Also, they said what parents let them watch on television plays a big role in how they’re affected.

The images our cameras captured the night of Officer Perry Renn’s death can be hard to escape or erase from memory.

It’s part of the reason some didn’t try to hide from his death, but rather reflect on it and honor him.

“Out of respect for a fallen officer, we’re here to pay our respects,” said Michael Marine as he visited Officer Renn’s squad car that now sits as a memorial.

He was joined by his son Eric.

“It’s the right thing to do, I’m bringing my child up and I am trying to teach him respect,” he said.

But learning to respect Officer Renn’s sacrifice isn’t the only challenge children face, explaining why he was killed and why someone would shoot him is another.

“Yeah that’s tough to explain that and, you know, why the violence keeps occurring,” said parent Randy Pease who visited the memorial with his family.

“One of the first things that we would recommend is for parents to be mindful, mindful of how much media coverage over a tragedy that they’re watching with the kids being exposed to that,” said Mandy Grella, Licensed Clinical Social Worker with St. Vincent Health.

The next step is to monitor their behavior.

“Are they regressing in developmental milestones? Are they not wanting to go to school, being a little bit more clingy to their caregivers, things of that nature,” she added. “If you do recognize that, than absolutely open that line of communication.”

And talking to them starts with asking questions, like why are they acting a certain way and what are they afraid of.

Grella said then remind them you’re always ready to listen.

“Lastly, what I would encourage you to do is to develop a safety plan. If your child does identify that they’re feeling afraid or a certain way then knowing what to do, who do I contact, and reminding them where a safe place is,” she said.

If your children have been watching the coverage of Officer Renn’s death or the deaths of the two other officers in Indiana, Grella said that could be the right time to start the conversation.

But she recommends telling them that acts of violence like those examples are not everyday occurrences, and that those stories are only getting more attention because they’re a unique situation.

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