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Duke Expert: Tough Conversations with Youngsters After Tragedy is Important to Their Coping


Sarah Avery
Sarah Avery
919-724-5343 Email

As the nation grapples with another mass school shooting, parents, educators and other caregivers struggle yet again to put the tragedy in context and effectively manage fear, sadness, anger, frustration and other difficult emotions. Duke child trauma expert, Robin Gurwitch, offers guidance on how to work through children's anxieties. 

Quotes: "A parent's first instinct is to shield their child completely," says Robin Gurwitch, Ph.D., who has been involved in events from terrorism (e.g., Oklahoma City, 9/11) to disasters (e.g., Katrina, Joplin and Oklahoma tornadoes), to mass violence (Sandy Hook, Las Vegas). "But talking about these events is important, and it's crucial to frame the conversation in an age-appropriate way that provides clarity and reassurance."

"How we talk with our children and what actions we take can help them cope, particularly as we now face the unfortunate prospect that these sorts of tragedies seem to be increasing in occurrence."

Bio: Robin Gurwitch is a Duke clinical psychologist and member of the National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters, the American Psychological Association's Disaster Response Network, and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. She is a nationally recognized expert in supporting children after trauma and disasters. Gurwitch can be reached at, or 405-659-9513.

View more detailed guidelines on helping children.


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