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How to talk to kids about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas

This is a recurring recording of KOLO 8 News Now at 10.
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 10:47 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Filling our news feeds and flashing on our screens are the images of another mass shooting at a setting where most kids spend their days.

According to officials, an 18-year-old gunman opened fire Tuesday at a Texas elementary school, killing at least 19 children as he went from classroom to classroom.

A tragedy many children are becoming more familiar with. Recent data released by the FBI indicates that active shooter incidents rose more than 50 percent over 2021.

Trish Prestigiacomo LCSW, the Clinical Director at WC Health says discussing subjects like this is always difficult, especially for the children of today who have endured a pandemic.

“We’ve had things happening in our country, in our world that gives people a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear,” said Prestigiacomo. “When we’re speaking about anger, anger is usually a secondary emotion to fear, sadness, lost.”

She says parents should initiate the conversation and explain things in the simplest and most factual way they can.

“It’s best to have that conversation with your child prior to maybe them hearing it from somebody else because it’s scary,” said Prestigiacomo.

She also recommends that parents make it a point to demystify guns.

“You know, helping children understand what they are, how they work, will help keep them safe and what to do when they see one,” said Prestigiacomo.

The clinical director explained the last thing you want is for a child to blame themselves.

‘What did those kids do? What did those teachers do? It was nothing that they did. It was someone that most likely suffered from their own mental health issues.” said Prestigiacomo.

Mental health professionals often describe active shooters to younger kids as being sick, not well, or not knowing better.

“Here at WC Health, we have a lot of children who are traumatized by things that have happened in their families and the last thing that we want to do is to lay blame on someone else because we don’t know their story,” said Prestigiacomo.

When it comes to your child expressing fear about going to school, validate it and don’t dismiss them with ‘you’ll be fine.’

“Say ‘Yes, this thing happened and it is scary’ but I think also, bring in the school,” said Prestigiacomo. “I think that what we’ll see now is school counselors coming together and really working with parents and children.”

If your child is in middle school or high school, experts recommend offering them time to talk about how they are feeling. If they don’t open up during the conversation, try asking specific questions, but be gradual with your approach as it can take time for them to feel comfortable.

It is important for parents to acknowledge their own emotions and not lose hope.

If fear starts to get in the way of your child or teen’s everyday life, it is recommended to seek professional help.

WC Health Clinic is located at 850 Mill Street Reno, NV 89502. Their phone number is (775) 538-6700.

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