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Psychologist offers advice to parents on how to discuss tragedy with children

DELPHI, Ind.- As the search for answers continues to grow, so does the speculation about how 13-year-old Abigail Williams and 14-year-old Liberty German died—speculation that can cause stress and anxiety in kids, especially teens. Experts say in situations like this parents are the ones who need to take the first step in making sure their own kids feel safe and secure.

It’s a story playing out on TV, in newspapers and at break-neck speed on social media. And for kids hearing about the deaths of those Delphi teenagers, it can lead to a lot of stress.

“I think for teens absolutely parents can initiate [a conversation], and for smaller children, if they don’t know about it I don’t think there’s a need to initiate in that aspect unless they bring it up,” said psychologist Kimble Richardson, a mental health counselor with Community Health Network.

He says in a situation like this, a parent’s goal should be to reassure; especially when so much anxiety comes from speculation.

“You really want to try to quell the rumors as much as possible, understand what the facts really are,” said Richardson, “and then listen to what the fears and concerns are.”

On Tuesday, as word spread that the girls’ bodies had been found, Delphi Schools Superintendent Gregory Briles said how important it was to have resources on hand for kids at school.

“At that time we had guidance counselors, grief counselors, and other individuals available for our students if they needed them,” said Briles.

And that’s especially important, says Richardson, because some adolescents might not be as comfortable opening up to their mother or father as they would someone else. As long as parents understand that, he says, it’s OK.

“Sometimes parents want to know ‘Who are my other resources?’ and so for kids it could be counselor, a guidance counselor at school, a priest, a minister,” said Richardson.

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