Children’s therapist shares advice for parents following Tyre Nichols video

Experts recommend parents lead tough conversations about the footage.
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 6:09 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - As body camera video of the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols circulates, experts recommend parents lead tough conversations about the footage.

Jody Baumstein, a licensed therapist with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life, said parents don’t need to show their children the horrifying video, but they should address it.

“You really want to get ahead of it and have a conversation. Bring it up, and let them know you’re okay talking about it,” said Baumstein. “If they think you can’t handle it, they’re certainly not going to approach the conversation.”

Baumstein said older children and teenagers may see and hear about the video from their peers or own devices. Initiating a conversation allows the child to process the trauma and difficult emotions with their family.

“Start by asking what they know about it, and then give them a chance to really talk very openly about it,” she explained. “If you’re never talking about these things, it kind of teaches them it’s off limits.”

Baumstein says parents should acknowledge their child’s feelings, and help them recognize they may feel more than one emotion which may change over time.

Parents should avoid saying things like, “don’t worry about that,” which can inadvertently shut down a conversation.

“It’s really tempting as humans – we want to make them feel better. We want to take away their fear or their pain or discomfort,” said Baumstein. “We really want to validate and normalize by letting them know, “I understand why you feel that way.’”

Children who do not have an opportunity to express feelings may struggle with processing emotions in other areas of their lives.

“That’s not going to stop them from having the feelings or the questions. It’s just going to create possibly a sense of shame when they do,” Baumstein explained.

Baumstein acknowledges adults may struggle with processing their own feelings. Families might benefit from a parent sharing complex emotions with their children, rather than hiding them.

“Parents need to give themselves permission to not have all the answers and to also be human. You have your own feelings about things, you might be overwhelmed,” she said. “It’s okay to let them know that you feel something similar. It teaches them that there’s nothing wrong with them for feeling it.”

Parents should keep an eye out for traumatic responses in their children, which can include irritability, having a hard time sleeping, loss of interest in activities, or becoming withdrawn.

If a child is struggling, Baumstein recommends strategies like deep breathing or using senses – asking what the child hears or sees in the moment – to bring them into the present.

“You’re teaching them that they have control over what they focus on, and it brings them back here into the moment into their body,” she explained. “For a minute, they are away from those worries and those concerns.”