Parents find ways to talk to children about school shooting in Texas

Alejandra Dominguez said her two younger children do not know what happened, but her 12-year-old has questions.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Parents find ways to talk about school shooting in TX
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Pitman police will maintain this presence around Pitman high School throughout the week in the wake of the school shooting in Texas.

PITMAN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey officials were posted outside Pitman High School Wednesday morning as schools across the country gather in the wake of the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas.

Pitman police will maintain this presence throughout the week and possibly longer.

Parents across the country are grappling with how to explain to their children what happened.

"I had a very tough night last night. I couldn't sleep because I was thinking about it," said Alejandra Dominguez, a mother of three from Pennsauken.

Dominguez said her two younger children do not know what happened, but her 12-year-old has questions.

"She was like, 'What do I do if something happens at my school?' So I'm trying to tell her Pennsauken schools are very different," Dominguez explained.

Dominguez added, "She was like, 'What if they come through another window or through another place?' And I just couldn't answer that question."

What and even if you tell children can depend on their ages.

A video from Sesame Street posted to YouTube in 2021 addresses community violence and encourages adults to keep children away from media as much as possible.

The video also advises grown-ups to pay close attention to children's questions-- and maybe start by letting them tell you what they heard.

"I always think the police being in a visible place is a good thing. I think when the police are out, it shows neighborhood awareness," said parent Shannon Morton of Pitman.

The National Association of School Psychologists suggests providing children with reassurance that the children and their schools are safe.

NASP also states that explanations should be developmentally appropriate. For example, for young children-keep information brief and simple.

Limit television viewing and be aware if your tv is on in common areas, according to NASP.

Also, NASP advises to review safety procedures at school and at home.

Dameion Brown of Washington Township has three young children.

"Now, I do think I have to talk to them about it," said Brown. "My wife and I were just discussing that on the phone, that we should start teaching them what to do in case something like that happens at their school."

Walker Krouse, executive director of the Uplift Center for Grieving Children in Philadelphia's East Falls section, suggests taking a step back from constant coverage.

"We get traumatized, then we can project that on to our own kids," she said.

The Uplift center sees many children who have experienced loss to gun violence first-hand.

"In Philadelphia, we have had a lot of shootings near schools and after school. So, I think you have to recognize if your child has seen that, to emphasize whatever your safety plans are."

Licensed counselor Kate Ramsey with Retreat Behavioral Health says to allow space for questions when talking to children.

"They will ask the questions that are age appropriate. We let them lead the conversation," said Ramsey.

Ramsey says be honest but age appropriate.

Always come back to your own reality, the here and now.

"State clearly and unequivocally, 'You are safe,'" said Ramsey.

Finally, try taking action.

"Writing to the first responders on the scene, writing letters to the school to the kids who are there saying, 'Hey, I'm out here cheering for you.' Thats a way to feel active and connected and again, look towards hope," she said.

The Uplift Center for Grieving Children operates a hotline for kids and parents staffed by trained professionals.

Those in need of their services can call or text: 1 833 PHL HOPE.