allen mall shooting

How to Talk to Children About Mass Shootings

Following the Allen mall shooting, parents are challenged with how to address such events with young Texans

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As gun violence continues to touch communities across Texas, parents are confronted with how to talk to their children about the tragic and often highly publicized events.

Most experts agree that although it may feel unnecessary or daunting, parents should encourage such conversations — especially to avoid misinformation or rumors that kids may learn through social media or their friends.

At least eight people, including children, were killed and seven others were wounded in a shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets mall on Saturday.

Spanning decades, a number of high-profile mass shootings have plagued the state across its churches, schools, shopping centers and more. Meanwhile, schools frequently receive false threats of violence that prompt lockdowns.

Parents may worry that addressing such topics might scare their child or make things worse in some way; however, “people tend to deal better with anxiety and emotions when they have a safe space to explore them,” said Annmarie MacNamara, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Texas A&M University.

Here’s how to approach such difficult talks.

Manage your own anxiety first

Similar to how flight attendants instruct travelers to “put your oxygen mask on” before helping others, experts suggest parents cope with their own anxiety before helping children to model how to cope with shocking news.

Reaching out to a close friend, other parents or a mental health professional can help adults process these events and get advice about how to address them with their children.

And remember, “kids are actually pretty resilient and can sometimes deal with some of these things better than adults,” MacNamara said.

Let your child drive the conversation

Make it clear to kids that you’re available to talk. That can be done by asking what they know or if they have any questions about the recent event, experts recommend. Then allow them to fully express their thoughts and feelings.

Listening attentively and avoiding interruptions is imperative, according to the American Psychological Association.

To read the full article, visit our partners at the Dallas Morning News.

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