Talking to your kids about school shootings

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After watching tragedy unfold in Uvalde, Texas, parents are rightfully concerned for not only the safety of their little ones but how children process these traumatic events. How can parents and teachers talk to small children as these deadly shootings continue to impact kids of all ages?

It’s unfortunate that parents have to have these conversations, but Knox Community Elementary School guidance counselor, Tara Nantz says it’s best to keep children informed instead of ignoring the situation altogether.

“Don’t assume that your kids don’t know what happened,” said Nantz. “Between social media or the kids on the playground, it’s quite possible that even though you haven’t shown it or they haven’t seen it on your tv or you haven’t talked about it in your home. They still have some type of exposure to it.”

Parenting means having difficult conversations as your kids navigate growing up. In the fourth grade, students should be concerned about long division, not their lives.

Nantz says parents need to be honest and upfront with their children- instead of trying to shelter them.

“Try to be as truthful as you can in the answers the kids ask,” said Nantz. “Truthful and factual information is good. Especially the younger the kid is, they don’t need a whole lot of details.”

Experts also recommend maintaining an open dialogue with your kids, not just about traumatic events, but their own feelings.

Licensed therapist, Holly Hirschy-Hurd says it’s also important to give them space to have those feelings.

“Often times teens feel like they’re parents are going to judge what they’re saying or may not understand so we want to try to have that open space, that open communication,” said Hirschy-Hurd.

Keep in mind, children could have various reactions to big current events like the Texas elementary school shooting that are often hard to process. Hirschy-Hurd says they may appear to be more needy, seek more comfort or show signs of uncertainty or irritability.

“With younger we don’t always see the expected trauma responses,” said Hirschy-Hurd. “You may see certain behaviors, acting out. You may see them feeling more afraid to leave you or other trusted adults because of that uncertainty. And the biggest thing you can do is allow them to have those responses and providing that safe space for them.”

As your child continues to learn more about the tragedy, they may respond with uncertainty or fear. Experts say, while there is no “normal” reaction to trauma, it’s important to keep an eye on how your child reacts to better respond.

Nantz says one of the best things you can do is offer reassurance.

“When we’re talking about safety talk to them about the safety procedures that are already in place at your school, locked doors, playground procedures, entryways, lockdown drills. Sometimes the more they understand those reasons that was things are happening and that those things are in place for a reason the more secure they’ll feel,” said Nantz.

If you’re not sure of the school’s procedures feel free to contact your school to learn more

If you notice signs of withdrawal from your teen or child, like mood changes or changes in activity; talk with them, this could be a sign that they need help.

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