Uvalde Massacre: What to tell your kids

A Central TX child therapist weighs in
Posted at 6:41 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 21:49:22-04

25 News Anchor Todd Unger visited with a Central Texas child and adolescent therapist, Katie Caldwell, for her insight on the difficult conversations parents need to have with their children following the tragedy in Uvalde.

TODD: How on earth do you begin to talk to your kids about the situation we see in Uvalde?

KATIE: I think it's really hard to talk to your children about this, because we are faced with issues of life and death that we ... often don't see with children. And especially, you know, at the end of the school year, where there's so much celebration already.

So I think the best way is just to be really transparent, and really honest with your kids about what's going on. So ... we're approaching them and saying, you know, how are you feeling about this? Are you doing okay? Are you feeling afraid?

TODD: How do you talk to your kids about their school being a safe space? Because obviously, so many of them are going to look at what's happening here, look at what has happened in years past, and they're going to question that.

KATIE: Yeah, absolutely. And so I think, again, it's about ... acknowledging that there is a risk, that these bad things do happen, and helping kids feel prepared for that. So, you know, reminding kids what they do have control over and what they don't have control over. And then if they come to you afraid if they come to you feeling anxious, letting them know that it's okay to feel those things, and giving them some ways to handle that.

So maybe that's, you know, making sure you're checking in with your child frequently, maybe that's encouraging your child to talk to the school counselor, or a teacher or a friend. And just reminding your kids that, you know, when no matter what they're feeling, it's okay to feel it, and that reaching out for help is really important. It's really important to talk about these issues.

TODD: Is there an age when it's appropriate to start talking about this? Do you just need to start talking about it as soon as they go to kindergarten?

KATIE: So I think that's an individual parent decision. Most schools do lockdown drills. And so I think a lot of times the younger kids who aren't used to that, especially your kindergarteners, and first graders, might come home and ask why are we doing these lockdown drills.... You know, if you have a kindergartener, you're not going to want to go into great detail. But maybe just saying something like 'Sometimes unsafe things happen at school - and your teachers want to make sure that they know how to keep you safe, their job is to keep you safe. That's really important to them.' So just like you practice a fire drill.