FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A school shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas has sparked more debates around the country about how to best keep students safe at school.
The difficult truth is that there are countless students around the country who could be wondering if a gunman might open fire at their school.
How do parents address what happened in Texas with their kids? What should they say to them? WANE 15 talked to Jayme Yates, an assistant director for the Bowen Center.
Yates said it’s important for parents to discuss these types of things with their kids, but the parents should make sure they’ve processed their own feelings on the matter first.
Then, Yates advises letting your kids take the lead on the discussion. Allow them to express how they feel and ask any questions they might have.
“I think one of the most important things we can do as parents is to have that open and honest communication, so, putting the time, energy, and love into these conversations – it’s really hard to mess that up,” Yates said.
She said it’s important to let your kids know it’s OK to feel whatever it is they’re feeling. If it happens to be fear, she suggests trying to guide them toward focusing on controlling things they can control.
Yates says to not make promises that nothing bad will ever happen, but instead to try and show them how you cope with stress.
These types of discussions, according to Yates, can be achieved easier if parents aim to have daily check-ins with their kids to create dialogue. She suggests asking them how their day was or about things going on in their lives daily.
In those discussions, Yates warns you don’t want to accept one-word answers. She advises seeking specific thoughts or feelings your kids can discuss with you.
If it seems like your child isn’t ready to talk about things, you should should make sure they always understand you’re available to talk and hear them when bad things do happen.
So long as it is age-appropriate, Yates said that it’s never to early to start talking about bad things happening in the world, like school shootings, with your kids.
If children are confused or scared by having to prepare for those types of situations during lockdown drills at school, Yates suggests asking them about it and, once again, reassuring that it’s okay to have certain feelings.
“Most likely, they will have had one or two throughout the course of the school year,” Yates said. “You can ask them questions on what they remember about that drill, and how they felt, and what they did, and then they can disclose some information about that. As a parent, you can let them feel their feelings… If they are feeling sad or angry, or feeling an amount of stress about the situation, you can teach them how to cope with that.”
Everyone is different and will find different ways to cope that best works for them. One exercise Yates suggests for kids is a breathing exercise.
She said having them lie on their backs with their hands on their stomach and then taking big, deep breaths is a good way to help kids relax.