Purdue researchers analyze children's behaviors after tragic events

Children are being used in research studies after events like the Noblesville West Middle School shooting.

Posted: May. 30, 2018 6:24 PM
Updated: Jun. 1, 2018 7:05 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI)-- Researchers are using studies after tragic events to analyze children's behaviors. With the recent shooting at Noblesville West Middle School, one researcher is suggesting parents remain patient with their children.

Parents in Tippecanoe County are already talking with their kids about the upcoming school year.

Even after a week, the emotions behind the shooting are still hitting close to home. Purdue researchers have studied children's reactions to war, terrorism and peacemaking. What they've found is giving parents the chance to rethink the way they talk to their children.

As a mother, Kerrie Michael has already had this talk with her daughter.


"You have to be able to have that conversation with your child," Michael said. "You should be able to leave the door open so your child does feel comfortable to talk to you about anything."

The school shooting in Noblesville injured 13-year-old student Ella Whistler and teacher Jason Seman. It has parents in Tippecanoe County starting the conversation. Human Development and Family Studies Emerita Professor Judith Myers-Walls said this can't be swept under the rug.

Her research with Purdue Extension's Purple Wagon studies children's understanding of peace and political violence. Myers-Walls said kids three to twelve years old associate the words war and violence with recent tragic events like shootings.
Giving them the opportunity to open up, when they're ready, is key.

"The first reaction from the parents is that the children are going to be afraid," Walls said. "They want to allay the children's fears, but what we found in our interviews with children is that fear is only a small part of the children's reaction. Another big part is sadness and anger."

Carrie Heady has taught her kids to go out of their way to befriend someone who may be left out.
She believes kindness is the beginning of the solution.

"My girls, I think they are pretty good about knowing, you know who to veer away from," Heady said. "But I've also encouraged them if they see somebody that might not have a friend to try to friend them because everyone needs a friend."

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