“Acknowledge it”: Clinical psychologist offers advice for kids, families processing trauma of Waukesha holiday parade

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 6:18 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2021 at 6:51 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - After a pandemic as exhausting as this, Waukesha’s holiday parade was supposed to be a fresh start ahead of the holidays. For some kids, it may have been one of the first large-scale events they had been to in a while, making it even more traumatic that it ended in death and serious injury.

Moving forward from a traumatic event like this, clinical psychologist Kathleen Hipke says the best way adults can help kids through this difficult time is by acknowledging what they experienced.

“We often don’t want to talk about it but it’s really helpful to acknowledge it and check in with kids,” said Hipke. “Start by asking them what do you know, what did you see, what are you thinking about because that gives parents a starting place for parents to join them and support them.”

Hipke says it is crucial that adults are there to help kids make sense of this tragedy. This will go a long way in how kids carry this experience from them, she said.

As more holiday events take place, Hipke encourages families and kids to continue to get out there and not avoid large gatherings. Reminding kids of the heroes who stepped in to help can also help them process.

“As we go through that process what adults can do in addition to acknowledge is remember that advice that Fred Rogers a long time ago,” she said. “He always reminded families to look for the helpers. Directing kids to also remember the emergency works, the adults who helped, the doctors.”

She says adults coming alongside children is tremendously helpful.

Hipke says to watch for a few signs in your child.: if there are disruptions to eating, sleeping, playing -- any normal childhood activities persist longer than a few weeks -- contact your doctor.

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