Q&A: Here’s how to start a conversation with your child about the Texas school shooting

Mental health experts say it may be a tough conversation but you should never shield your child from the truth
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 4:39 PM HST|Updated: May. 26, 2022 at 5:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many parents are struggling with how to talk to their children about the Texas school shooting because they don’t want to worry their kids.

Mental health experts said while talking about a mass shooting is difficult, avoiding the conversation can make things worse.

So how do you start a conversation with children?

To navigate through this tragedy, HNN spoke to Clinical Psychologist Mireille Reece who broke down the impact mass shootings have on children’s mental health and how to practice healthy coping. Here’s what she said:

How does the Texas school shooting impact children’s mental health?

  • “Children always put themselves as the main character in their stories. So when events like this happen they are looking at it in terms of how does this relate to me. So really, am I safe? What does that look like for me? And that’s where parents, caregivers, grandparents and friends can comment and look to familiar things in their world that do keep them safe.”

Why is it important that parents talk to their children about the mass shooting?

  • “In the field of neuropsychology we say name it to tame it. The more that I have words to actually express or convey what’s going on it actually helps us to process our emotions and we want to express not suppress what’s going on. So when parents and people around kids can put words to tragedies like this it actually helps everyone as a whole.”

What are some things parents can do to move forward in a healthy way?

Mental health experts said these are just a few ways parents and their child can move forward together:

  • If your child is scared of going to school, it’s okay to keep them out for a day or two to give them a break. But be aware that keeping them out for long periods of time may build up their fear.
  • Keep a close eye on changes to your child’s emotions, behavior, appetite or sleep which can be signs a child is feeling anxious
  • Remind kids that statistically, a mass shooting is still very unlikely to happen at their school. Talk about the safety measure that are in place.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings, reassuring that you will keep them safe.
  • Use this opportunity to practice gratitude with your child by talking about who or what you are most thankful for amidst the tragedy.

The American Psychological Association advises parents to seek professional help if their child is in need of more assistance.

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800) 273-8255. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For more information on how to talk about mental health with children, click here.

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