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Parents, experts share advice on talking to children about Texas school shooting

How To Talk To Children About School Shootings
Posted at 5:11 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 18:12:39-04

TAMPA, Fla.  — The news of a mass shooting at a school in Texas undoubtedly stirred up emotions for families across the country, even with children. Parents are weighing in on how they’re talking to their kids about the tragedy while experts share advice on how to navigate it together.

“Initially, you think about your kids being in that position,” said Kimberly Lasher.

Lasher has three girls, 12, 10, and 7-years-old. Following the news of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas, Lasher talked to her two oldest.

“My 10 and my 12-year-old, just because they can comprehend it a little bit better,” said Lasher. “I said something terrible happened in Texas yesterday at an elementary school. Do you have any questions? Are you fearful to attend school the rest of the week? What can I do to help you?”

It’s a hard conversation many parents find themselves having with their kids. Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein, the Co-Director of the Center for Behavioral Health at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, explained these conversations are really all dependent on a child’s developmental level.

“Maintaining that open communication as a family, being able to check-in whenever necessary with a very calm demeanor, and again, letting our kids guide that conversation overall, and then even for our older kids, watching for signs of anxiety, depression, and stress,” said Dr. Katzenstein.

For very young children, Katzenstein explained to watch their behavior. She said for kids 8 and up to ask the question what have you heard or what are you thinking about and then wait for them to respond to decide how to move forward.

“For our older kids, middle school and high school, they’re likely to have seen it on the news or via social media, and then very much as parents outright asking, what have you heard, what are you thinking about, and then continuing the conversations from there,” said Katzenstein.

As parents, Katzenstein said to watch out for your own big emotions as kids are looking to you for your reaction. She said it’s important to show kids coping strategies for talking through situations and understanding different viewpoints, while also knowing that they have someone who’ll listen and a safe place at home available and there for them.

“They’re hard and difficult conversations to have with your kids, but based on your children’s maturity, just to have this open dialogue with them so that they feel comfortable coming to you with their fears or their concerns, and then conversely, you can go to them with your fears and your concerns regarding things that happen at school,” said Lasher.