There’s really no easy way to open the conversation about such a tragedy, especially with elementary age children.
Doctor LaVonna Patterson of Patterson Compassionate Counseling in Idaho Falls said it’s most important to let your children do the talking.
“Try to let the child ask many questions as they possibly can, what they’re interested in. Sometimes children don’t quite get the whole story of what’s real and what’s not, so I wouldn’t give them a full script of what’s going on,” said Patterson.
She also advises parents to be aware of their own fears when talking to their children and recommends parents talk to other adults about the shooting before approaching the subject with their children. Patterson said children are more likely to imitate how their parents feel, so if parents show feelings of fear and anxiety, the children are likely to feel that too.
Patterson also said it’s important to not get overly anxious about the subject with their children. She advises parents to stay away from elaborating on “what if” scenarios and be sure children don’t become afraid to go to school.
“It depends, again, how aware the children they are. They don’t have to know all the misery that’s going on in the world,” said Patterson.
The most important thing she emphasized is to allow children to express their feelings and have them steer the conversation based on how much they know.