David Schonfeld

David Schonfeld

The flooding, demonstrations and police shootings of 2016 could be causing distress in youngsters who live in the Baton Rouge area.

But the kids might not recognize that these traumatic events led to their anxiety or pain. 

Traumatic events can often lead to other problems that more closely affect children, such as tension at home or a disruption in their education because of flooded schools, said Dr. David Schonfeld, an expert on childhood trauma. 

"The child may actually be distressed about fighting in the household, which may have been initiated from the events that started with the flood," Schonfeld said. "It may not be that their distress in school is because of the flood itself but more what follows from that."

Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital has invited Schonfeld to lead a free community forum to discuss childhood trauma and crisis on Friday, March 10. He will also address medical professionals that weekend. 

Schonfeld is the director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at the University of Southern California School of Social Work and routinely provides his expertise in the aftermath of tragedies, including the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, school shooting and Hurricane Katrina. 

Recognizing that children's anxiety or sadness may arise from other issues after the flood can help parents know how to help, Schonfeld said. Many parents already have the tools to help their children after a tragedy. They know how to encourage their kids to talk about major life changes, and they know how to comfort them, he said.

"Actually, a lot of the same strategies they use when their children are distressed after lesser adversity are some of the best strategies to start with," Schonfeld said. "It may not be sufficient, but it can be helpful."

However, many parents try to distract their children from the stress of a major traumatic event, such as the historic 2016 floods, and many parents never share their grief. 

"We are not really shielding children from the distress of the floods," Schonfeld said. "We aren’t able to do that in many situations. What we are doing is shielding them from how to cope with it."

Talking openly about the pain of losing a home or another crisis can help children develop techniques to deal with these issues themselves as adults.

"We can’t help people deal with their distress if we never allow them to share it with us," Schonfeld said. "And we can’t really expect children to learn coping techniques if we don’t share our coping techniques."

Schonfeld said he hopes to help the community understand that they should seek counseling while readjusting after a traumatic event, even if other people suffered similar losses. 

"There is a tendency for us to not seek or accept help for something we feel is what anybody else would go through," Schonfeld said. 

Registration is required for the free community forum. For more information, visit ololchildrens.org/events.

Follow Kyle Peveto on Twitter, @kylepeveto.