Talking To Your Kids About the Texas School Shooting
The most recent mass shooting in the elementary school in Texas is horrific and for many parents, it hits home especially hard. Here are a few tips on how you can address it with your children:
Ask them what they already know. They may have heard things about this in school or from peers. Asking them what they know in an open-ended way gives you a starting point and can also allow you to clear up any misinformation that they may have received. E.g., “Have people in school been talking about what happened in Texas?”
Be honest and talk to them in clear, developmentally appropriate language. Know that at the core of this your children are likely having concerns about safety, so find ways to emphasize that. Validate their feelings and acknowledge your own. “Someone walked into a school in Texas with a gun and shot at people and some people died. It is all very upsetting and scary. The police and schools are being extra careful to make sure that nothing like that happens here. If there is ever a problem, we can call 911 and people will be here very quickly to help us. Our most important job is to keep you safe and we are paying extra attention right now about how we can do that.”
If they have questions, try to figure out exactly what they are asking and answer that. Give accurate information but also keep it as simple and straightforward as you can.
If they seem anxious or are having trouble sleeping but can’t articulate or connect the dots back to the event, you can gently do it for them. “I noticed you seem very worried. I wonder if it has anything to do with what happened in Texas. That was very upsetting and scary so it would make sense that you are having a hard time.” If you mention something like this and your kid denies or it doesn’t gain traction, just let it go.
Limit their exposure to news media, especially for young kids. Repeated exposure to images and other media can exacerbate experienced trauma.Young kids’ sense of time is still developing so constant exposure can make it seem like the event is ongoing or happening repeatedly instead of a contained event.
Allow time and space for your kids to process big emotions about this. This was a horrific event but you can’t fix it for them. But offering your consistent love and support will help and show them they aren’t alone.
Find a space and manner to process your own emotions away from the kids. While it is appropriate and helpful to acknowledge your feelings to your children, you also don’t want them to feel the burden of carrying your feelings for you. Finding other people and places to process your emotions will give you more space to help your children hold theirs.