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Talking to Children About School Violence

(CBS) - Many parents are struggling with how to talk to their children about the Texas school shooting.

Parents are often afraid to bring up these topics because they don't want to worry their kids, but psychologists say avoiding the conversation can make the situation even scarier for children. "We want kids to learn about big traumatic things from a trusted adult. If they learn about it from other kids on the playground, homeroom or overhearing it on the radio, in a store, then they are going to hear potentially more sensational bits. They are not going to have accurate information," says Dr. Jamie Howard, a senior clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute.

Dr. Howard says these conversations can start with children around school age. "An opener is, 'You know, I'm feeling really sad about a news story that I saw and I wonder if you have heard about it.' You don't want to jump in with a lengthy detailed explanation because it might be more than they need and more then they want."

Dr. Howard says parents can remind kids that statistically this violence is still very unlikely to happen at their school and they can talk about what safety measures are in place. "They practice stay put drills in their school where the doors are locked and they stay quiet. And I don't even think my daughter knew what they were for. So, they weren't so scary to her, but now she has a better understanding that they are to help keep her safe," she says.

Dr. Howard also says it's okay for parents to look sad or angry, but parents should be mindful of their emotions because big emotions from a parent can also scare children.

Parents should also keep a close eye on changes to their child's emotions, behavior , appetite or sleep which can be signs a child is feeling anxious The National Association of School Psychologists says doing things that you enjoy, sticking to your routine, and being with friends and family can help make us feel better and keep us from worrying about the event.

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Mercedes Martinez

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