HOUSTON — Is there a right or a wrong way for parents to talk to their children about school shootings?
What should a parent say? How should a parent answer their child's questions?
KHOU 11 reporter Lauren Talarico spoke with Dr. Marni Axelrad, a pediatric psychologist and clinic chief of the psychology service at Texas Children’s Hospital, about the mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school and asked how parents should have the difficult conversation with their kids.
Lauren Talarico: "How do you talk to your kids about something like this?”
Dr. Axelrad: “It’s a good question and it largely depends on how old they are. With young children, if there is a way to shield them, do so. If there is not a way to shield them… the best approach is the most simple approach; so, ‘Yes. Something terrible happened today. It’s a tragedy. What questions do you have about that and how are you feeling?’"
“For older children, it’s important to talk to them honestly. To still ask them what they know and ask them what they feel, but also talk about how you feel… within reason. Having [your children] talk you down or your children having to reassure you that they are safe when they go to school isn’t what we want to see happen.”
Lauren Talarico: “What do you say to your children if they say, ‘I am afraid to go to school?’”
Dr. Axelrad: “It’s important to validate their feelings. ‘I hear that you are afraid. This thing happened at school which is supposed to be just as safe as home for you.’"
“If they say, ‘I’m afraid to go to school. Please let me stay home.’ Letting them stay home actually is just going to exacerbate their fear and anxiety. And not sending your children to school drives home a message to them that school isn’t a safe place and what we do know is that school really is a safe place… most of the time.”
Dr. Axelrad recommends the National Child Traumatic Stress Network as a resource for parents and teachers looking for ways to speak with their children.
Dr. Axelrad addressed other questions including the red flags parents should be looking for that indicate their child might need professional intervention.
Watch her full interview with KHOU 11 News below: