Expert Recommends Ways to Talk to Your Children About School Shootings
The horrific images coming out of Texas and Florida following recent school shootings are difficult for adults to process, so how can we help our children make sense of the something so awful?
“As adults it’s so easy for us to want to put our own worries or our own anxieties [forward] to talk about; [but we also recommend asking] open-ended questions to be able to answer the child’s worries and the child’s concerns,” Dr. Anne Reagan, pediatric psychologist at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, said.
Dr. Reagan said, for young children, parents should limit their access to television and social media.
However, for older students who will most likely see some news coverage, Dr. Reagan said start a conversation. She encourages parents to ask what concerns their kids might have about safety and security in the classroom.
“We encourage parents to bring it up and for example say ‘I don’t know if you heard about the shooting in Texas today. Have your friends and you talked about it? What worries do you have?’” Dr. Reagan said.
She encourages parents to listen and validate their children’s concerns.
“We really find that the parents validating children’s concerns tend to get a better outcome compared to parents who say ‘Oh, don’t worry about it. The school will figure it out.’ That doesn’t really answer the child’s questions,” Dr. Reagan said.
Also, to prevent tragedies similar to the ones in Texas and Florida from happening again, make sure you are keeping an eye on your own children’s mental health.
“[Warning signs include] becoming more withdrawn or isolated. Maybe spending more time in their bedroom. Losing interest in activities that they previously enjoyed doing,” Dr. Reagan said.
At that point, Dr. Reagan said, a parent might want to reach out to a mental health professional for help.