CHICAGO – As the nation comes to grips with the horrific school shooting in Texas where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers, parents are once again trying to figure out the best way to talk to their children about violence while also easing fears.
WGN News Now spoke to Dr. Toya Roberson-Moore, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with the Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center who also has a private practice.
Roberson-Moore said while recommendations are to limit children’s exposure to media during tragedies such as the Texas shooting, children may hear snippets of the incident in the community and have an emotional response. “When they’re only hearing snippets of what’s going on, for kids that can actually feel scarier than having a full picture of the story and can even exacerbate anxiety. So, it’s important as parents that we are having conversation with them.”
To get the conversation going, Roberson-Moore suggested parents start by asking their child what they’ve already heard. She said parents should start slow and tell their child they want to talk about something serious.
To build trust, she also recommends using eye contact and words of truth during the conversation. “As parents we feel like we have to be all knowing and have all of the answers which isn’t the case. ” said Roberson-Moore. “And truly in cases like this there isn’t one thing you can say to make it all better, and we don’t want to flood our children with fear. When they ask questions know that they are ready for truthful answers.”
In addition to the facts, she said parents should check in with their child at various points of the conversation to get a gauge on their feelings, and that it’s okay if your child is silent or becomes upset.
If your child asks why the shooting happened, Roberson-Moore said answers about people being in pain, people being angry, or making bad choices can be more effective than labeling someone as bad.
She also said parents need to be sure and take care of themselves and consider talking to relatives, an outside support system, or therapy if need be.
“You can best help your child when you help yourself. If you’re experiencing anxiety to the point its interfering with your ability to function or feel uncomfortable taking your child to school or other places… in order for us to show up as the best versions of ourselves for our children, especially during this time, make sure you are seeking out support for yourself.”
You can hear more advice in the video above and if you’d like to contact Roberson-Moore you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org