How to talk with your kids about a school shooting

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. -- Many families are talking with their kids about the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting, including the images they are seeing and the stories they are hearing.

Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a child therapist, says it’s important to give your children age-appropriate facts about the shooting and remind them about the safety measures that are in place.

She says for young kids, keep it simple. For example, Ziegler says you could say, "'Some bad guys went into a school, and they hurt and killed one child.' And you do want to say that, as hard as it is,” she said.  “You can say to them, 'This is why we practice our lockdown drills. This is why Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So is always walking around the school to keep you safe.'"

For older kids, Ziegler says to follow up with questions. Ask what they think about the shooting.

Ziegler says parents should be prepared. Some teens will express fear, but others could seem desensitized.

“Even though they may seem flippant or desensitized to it, I would still talk to them about, no, it's actually not OK to feel so unsafe in our schools, or our malls or our places of worship," Ziegler said.

Full coverage of STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting

Additionally, it is important to try to promote resilience.

“High school kids are old enough to say, 'What do we want to do with our fear or our anger?'" Ziegler said. “Kids getting involved in sort of a grassroots movement, an anti-bullying program in high school, is a very effective way for them to deal with the stress and the realities of their daily lives.”

Ziegler says it’s also important to recognize possible signs of trauma or anxiety. If your child has a headache, stomach ache, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, a change in appetite, a change in mood or they want to avoid school, it’s probably time to seek professional help. Ziegler says the school is a good place to start.

The Douglas County School District provided a list of resources for those seeking support:

Parent Guidelines for Helping Youth After the Recent Shooting

The Role for Caring Adults After a School or Community Tragedy

Student Perpetrators of School Violence

Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers

Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers (Español)

Care for Caregivers: Tips for Families and Educators

Care for Caregivers: Tips for Families and Educators (Español)

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