Mental health expert in Louisiana shares tips to help kids cope with protests, violence

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Social media and non-stop news cycles are making violent images more mainstream.

“People can think, ‘Well, kids see stuff on TV all the time,'” said Howie Brownell, licensed marriage and family therapist. “But, it’s totally different when it’s reality, when it’s in their community, in their neighborhood.”

Brownell said kids haven’t developed the emotional resources to process everything they see.

“I don’t care how mature they are to be able to handle a lot of shock and trauma,” said Brownell. “And let’s face it, some of the images they can see sometimes can be very traumatic.”

The images can also be confusing.

“They don’t understand why there is fighting and protests and looting,” said Jennifer LaPierre. “They don’t understand what looting is and why that would even happen.”

LaPierre said she and her husband have an “open door” policy with their 12-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter.

“We explain the true definition of things and that people have the right to protest peacefully and they have the right to voice their opinion,” she said. “That’s the great thing about our country.”

Therapists said just being there to talk is the best thing you can do as a parent. They said don’t force the conversation.

“Give yourself some grace because when you expect perfection, many times you’ll get yourself stumbled,” said Brownell. “Just do the best you can.”

Brownell said it’s OK to talk to kids on their terms using social media or technology.

“I think we need to find ways to be as unified as we can,” said Brownell. “And again, unity does not mean agreement, but it means coming together as people to help one another.”

And sticking with a strong message of family values.

“We try very hard to make sure that our kids know that love is the answer,” said LaPierre. “Period. That’s the end of the story.”

If your child is isolating or there’s a sudden change of behavior, mental health experts said these may be signs they need someone to talk with.

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