Psychologist gives advice for parents to talk to children about school shootings

May 25, 2022, 1:52 PM | Updated: 2:15 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Outrage and heartbreak have gripped the country after 19 children and two adults were massacred at Ross Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

It’s important for parents to know how to talk to their children about this kind of violence. However, some might not know the best way to do it.

This morning KSL TV spoke with Dr. Matthew Woolley, a licensed psychologist and professor at the University of Utah, about some of the basic steps for the most difficult topics.

“You should be a safe place, a safe person for them to come talk to about that,” he said.

Woolley reminded parents that children don’t perceive the world the same way they do as adults. That doesn’t mean parents need to ignore serious news events — even devastating ones — but they have to be careful with how they react first.

“If a parent is really struggling with how they feel about what happened yesterday they may need some time to talk to another adult before they talk to their kids,” Woolley said.

Gunman kills 19 children, 2 adults in Texas school rampage

Breaking it down, Woolley said parents can’t keep things from their children because in the age of information, they’ll likely hear something.

Second, they should check their emotions to see if they need to talk to another adult before talking to their kids.

Third, make sure the conversation with their children is age appropriate.

With elementary-aged kids, don’t get specific and be brief.

When talking with junior high or middle schoolers, parents should ask open-ended questions and find out what their children know and what they want to know. Parents need to be honest, but they don’t have to be graphic.

Last, limit exposure of graphic videos because that can be traumatizing for young children.

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Psychologist gives advice for parents to talk to children about school shootings