Austin 9-year-old asking many of the questions we all have about the school shooting in Florida

This came into my inbox this morning:

Dear Editor,

Tonight we were talking at the dinner table about what happened at the high school in Florida (probably you read about the shooting). I had many questions for my mami and daddy.  Like:

  • Why was the shooter sad or angry about something?
  • What was he having strong emotions about?
  • Why did nobody notice that he had strong emotions?
  • How come he felt like killing people would help?
  • Why did he have a fast gun that shoots many bullets?

We need to know these things so we can do something about it. I do not want to be afraid to go to school.

Alma Rodriguez, 9

It seems to me that these mainly men leaders are just giving orders, instead of making changes to make it less easy to get fast guns with a lot of bullets. I think we should balance the genders.  We should have more women leaders because they will bring newer, safer ways to solve the gun problem.

For anybody out there that knows that someone is angry, sad or lonely, talk to them about why they are having strong emotions and help them feel loved, appreciated or not mad anymore.

Yours truly,

Alma C Rodriguez, 9

Fourth-grader at Pillow Elementary School

So, how do we talk to kids about school shootings? 

In October, after the Las Vegas shooting,  Jane Ripperger-Suhler, a child psychiatrist at Seton’s Texas Child Study Center, had this advice for parents about how much we should say about a shooting such as the one in Las Vegas or the one in Sutherland Springs or any of the 18 school shootings that have happened this year.

We need to be careful about who is watching with TV with us and how we explain it.

“It really depends on the developmental level of the kids,” she says. Consider how you think your child will take what they see on TV, she says. “I wouldn’t watch a lot with preschooler.”

Parents wait for news after a reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

For kids already in school, you can watch some with them, but be prepared to talk about it and answer their questions. You can ask things like: “What do you think about this?” “What questions do you have?” Gage if they want to talk about it, but, she says, “I wouldn’t force them to talk about this.”

Explain things in the simplest yet factual way you can. You could say “A man shot some people at a concert. I guess he was upset about something,” she says. Or in this case: “A man walked into a church and shot people.”

You can focus on how you are feeling, that you’re upset and that you also don’t understand why this happened, but be careful about how you are reacting. “If a parent swoons or becomes frantic, a child is going to do likewise.”

Most importantly, remind kids that they are safe; that you will keep them safe, and when they are at school, their teachers will keep them safe.

If your child seems to be fixated on what happened in these shootings, you could encourage them to draw, build something or act something out, if they don’t want to talk about it.

Dr. Jane Ripperger-Suhler is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Texas Child Study Center.

If they don’t seem to be able to move on after a few days, are afraid to go to school, are too scared to go to bed, are having physical symptoms of stress or behavior problems, get them help sooner rather than later, Ripperger-Suhler says.

Be especially aware if a child has experience a trauma before. Watching this scene on TV will not cause post-traumatic stress disorder, she says, but it can be more traumatic and disturbing to some kids.

Ripperger-Suhler says it’s important to go about normal life. And that normal life means going to church on a Sunday.

If your child expresses some fear about it, reassure them that you will keep them safe.

 

What are your kids talking about when it comes to this shooting?


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