Expert offers advice for parents on how to explain Texas school massacre to kids

[anvplayer video=”5111312″ station=”998122″]

Experts urge parents to have developmentally appropriate conversations with their children about the school shooting Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas. Officials say 19 children and two teachers were killed in the attack.

“There’s a lot of anxiety and fear and worry,” said Dr. Brian Kovach, a child/adolescent licensed clinical psychologist at Allina Health.

He said children will have varying degrees of emotion about the tragedy and parents should be prepared to respond.

“We don’t want to jump right into reassurance and say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be OK.’ We need to be able to identify and help them make sense of what they’re feeling, that it’s valid and real,” Kovach said.

He said allowing kids to express their emotions can help them process difficult situations.

KSTP’s full coverage on the Uvalde school shooting

If a child becomes fearful of going to school or leaving the house, he recommends reminding them that mass shootings are still incredibly rare.

“I think that’s the fine line here is helping them process these things. Yes, this is where we’re at. These things happen. However, let’s look at how you’re safe and let’s look at how we talk about these things and check in,” Kovach said. “We have to help provide validation and reflect that these things are real but we might need to introduce some more balanced thinking. We should consider those thoughts and feelings but balance them with some logic.”

He said it is important to make sure your response is developmentally appropriate. That includes opening up the lines of communication with older children, offering a healthy distraction when necessary and knowing when it may be best to limit news exposure.

Melinda Morvari of Bloomington has a 5-year-old daughter and said the updates out of Texas have been heartbreaking.

“It’s horrifying. It’s absolutely horrifying,” Morvari said. “I have a daughter that goes to elementary school and I cannot even fathom what those parents are going through right now.”

She said it was difficult dropping her daughter off at school Wednesday.

“It was hard. I grabbed her and I pulled her back and I gave her another kiss,” Morvari said.

She said many local moms are feeling varying degrees of helplessness.

“‘I can’t move. I can’t get out of bed.’ I mean, that’s what mothers in my circle are talking about today,” Morvari said.

Morvari runs a Facebook group called Twin Cities Mama Struggles, which she describes as a safe place to talk about hard emotions, especially in the wake of a tragedy that involves children.

“It’s just knowing that you’re not alone,” Morvari said.