SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Senseless tragedy has again opened the door for parents to have a hard but necessary conversation with their children.
22News spoke with a local mental health expert about how parents can help their kids process the mass shooting in Texas.
Nineteen students and two teachers were killed in a shooting at a Texas elementary school. It’s another horrific event weighing on both parents and their kids, and as images of gun violence seem to be everywhere, mental health experts share how families can address this tragedy.
“Observe first if their children know about what happened, they might not even know if the information is out there and everybody is talking about it, and also if you have more than one child, try to address the issue or the event with them separate,” said Enrique Vargas of Gandara Center.
How you speak with your child and the questions you ask them does depend on their age according to experts, and they say do not push the topic if your child does not want to talk about it. Vargas recommends that parents keep it simple with children 6 and younger when explaining what happened. Maintain calmness to keep your child at ease and reassure them that they are in fact safe.
Children between 7 and 11 can be asked what they have heard so far, what they are thinking, what they are feeling, and if they have any specific questions. Try to also focus on positive things happening. For teenagers, Vargas says let them express their opinion, listen to them, and also share their own opinions to create a dialogue.
“We cannot promise our children that this won’t happen again, but we can promise that we will always be there for them. So that’s why it’s important to remind them that we are their family, they are in a safe environment at their home. It’s very important to reassure them that this is the truth,” said Vargas.
Vargas says for all ages, remind your kids at all times that everything in their environment is okay. They are safe, and their loved ones are safe.
Parents can also talk with their child’s teachers about how they can appropriately address the mass shooting as well.