Talking to your kids about school gun violence

Posted at 4:22 PM, Feb 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-16 10:57:07-05

After yesterday's school shooting, many parents may not know how to talk to their children about the massacre.

Judy Malinowski is a clinical psychologist, specializing in trauma with the St. John Providence health system.

"The last thing anybody expects is to go into what we would consider a safe zone, which is school, and have something like this happen."

Malinowski said most kids will have questions after a school shooting like the one in Florida.

Being tactful is key.

She explained, "A lot of times parents err on the side of giving their children too much information, instead of starting a dialogue."

Malinowski said it is important to know your child's maturity level and have an age-appropriate conversation.

"They are under the age of 10 or 8, whatever, they are not going, perhaps, have as much exposure or have as many questions. But when you're talking to a teenager, you need to be having those really deep conversations."

It's also important to keep your emotions in check.

If you've been looking or acting terrified after seeing the shooting on the news, they will do the same.

"That's the hardest thing is how do we deal with our own anxiety, our own fear."

While guns are a focus after the school shooting, Malinowski says that isn't the only topic to discuss.

"Let's talk about the real issue, the mental illness. Who was this young man? What was he going through? What would drive somebody to do something like this?"

If your child asks how they can protect themselves, she suggests telling them, "There are situations in this world that are not safe and so that's why we have to practice some safety things. That's why I want you to be aware of when you get upset what you can do with your emotions and so if you see a friend and that friend is having problems with their emotions how can you then help them."

If your child is not talking about what happened, the psychologist says that doesn't mean it isn't bothering them.

It is then important to look for signs like loss of appetite, nightmares, irritability or anything that seems out of the norm.