Agency helps children touched by tragedy

The horrors that happened in a Johnston home Sunday are hard for adults to comprehend. Just imagine being one of the three young children at the home during the double homicide.

Family Service of Rhode Island works with kids in situations just like this tragedy.

"We have a team of people that respond immediately," said Dr. Susan Erstling, senior vice president of Family Service of Rhode Island.

She can't say whether her organization is helping the family in the Johnston double homicide, but Erstling explained what the agency does for children in similar circumstances.

"We're most concerned about reinforcing their feelings of safety," she said. "Letting them know there are adults that care about them, that there are people around them."

In the Johnston case, all three of the children in the home that night were under 10 years old. Even though some think young children won't remember a traumatic event, Erstling said that would be a mistake.

"We all like to believe that it would go away or they might forget about it or it wouldn't have such an impact since they were so young," she said. "But we know it does affect their development."

She said families need to talk about what happened and let kids discuss their experiences when they're ready.

Erstling said children overcome single tragic events more quickly than if they see prolonged instances of abuse, like in domestic violence cases. Because there is a circle of violence, she said guardians need to teach kids how to deal with conflict in non-violent ways.

Parents watching stories of violence on the news should also be aware of how their kids can be affected. They should limit small children's exposure to the stories and talk about it with older children.

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