Q: How do young children understand violence?
A: Traumatic events are more psychologically upsetting when they're initiated by people as opposed to natural disasters. Seeing adults cause harm and act violently confuses them and affects their ability to trust others.
Q: Which kids, in your experience, remain hopeful and resilient, even in the worst of situations?
A: Children are hopeful when they have someone they can discuss their fears with. An adult who believes in a child -- whether a parent, relative, or teacher -- provides hope. Children with active problem-solving abilities also do better. I remember a 4-year-old who had seen a lot of violence in her neighborhood. She lined up her stuffed animals around her bed so they could protect her while she slept. She found her own solution to her fear of going to sleep.
Q: What advice do you have for parents?
A: You can encourage your children to speak openly about their feelings and to share experiences. Try to understand their fears and worries, and provide realistic but positive reassurances. Ask what they want to be when they grow up, and be supportive. Helping kids think optimistically about the future ultimately makes them more hopeful about life.