AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — This week we saw a tragedy occur at an Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. We asked Executive Director of The Amarillo Children’s Home Belinda Palacios about how to speak with your kids about what has happened and be there emotionally for them.
Belinda had this to say “Yesterday a senseless tragedy occurred in Uvalde. This type of news affects everyone, young and old alike. It is hard for adults to digest that something like this can happen let alone children.
To protect children feeling anxious that a similar incident could happen at their school the temptation for parents is to switch off the TV and gloss over the terrifying truth. However, if parents don’t frame something for their kids regarding this tragedy they will fill in the blanks themselves or pull something together from the nuggets of information gleaned from friends, social media, etc. Sadness and fear are distinct emotions and need to be supported. Here are some tips for parents to help begin the conversation with their kids.”
· Don’t overload them: A common mistake is giving too much information, especially for younger kids/tweens. Try and answer questions simply and honestly and check with them if they have specific questions. Try not to overexpose them with news reports on TV and other platforms.
· Use an analogy you child can understand: Helping them understand there are things none of us can control such as the weather.
· Normalize their emotions: It might be helpful to talk to them about the range of emotions they could/are experiencing. Let them know it is normal to feel this way about sad, scary things. Encourage them to speak to you about concerns and reassure everything will be okay.
· Help them express their emotions: You kids may have no idea how to talk about their feelings about this issue. There are different ways to help them express how they are feeling beside talking…. Writing/ journaling, drawing, stories and songs are ways to help them express their feelings.
· Keep the conversation going: This can be an opportunity to talk about their feelings in general. Life is hard and busy and at times kids are aware of this and might not want to disrupt the flow of things to talk. Giving them extra love and attention at this time can be helpful as well.
· Consider your own reactions: Children are perceptive and likely to pick up on your emotions. They are looking to you for stability and assurance of safety. If they see you falling apart this can create an uneasiness/ anxiety within them, possibly thinking there is something you are not telling them.
“Also talk to you children about it being okay to tell a trusted adult (parent, teacher, coach, youth pastor, etc.) if they see/hear anything or see something on social media that is concerning for them regarding another child. Helping our kids to understand the signs to look for in others that are a waring sign for danger and giving them permission to talk about it is vital. Give them the avenues to be able to report this and the path to who they can report it too. Also, we as parents if we see warning sign within our own kids ADDRESS IT IMMEDIATELY. Don’t’ tell yourself it is a phase, they don’t mean it and would never hurt someone else. Be safe not sorry… this could save the life of others but also your own child in the end.”