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Lexington therapist explains how to discuss traumatic events with kids

APTOPIX Texas School Shooting
Posted at 1:55 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 17:34:36-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Though the tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas happened hundreds of miles away, Kentucky parents might now be wondering how to explain the event to their own children at home.

Daniel Lee, a clinical social worker who owns Counseling Associates of Kentucky in Lexington, says it often comes down to listening.

“You as a parent listen very attentively to what they're saying, and then in that process, comfort them by explaining that you're there for them and gonna keep them safe,” he told LEX 18.

Lee is also a father of three, so he understands it can be tough to find the right words, especially with kids. But he says it’s important to start the conversation and make sure children have factual information from trusted sources.

“If we don’t have it as parents, it’s not like they’re not gonna be had,” he said. “It’s just who they’re having it with.”

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers the same advice while emphasizing age-appropriate conversations. The organization says young children should not be allowed to see any video or sound of the shooting on TV or social media. Parents should also limit media consumption for older kids and even themselves.

“I would strongly encourage parents not to allow that, because what they see you can't take back, and once they see it, it's gonna have an impact,” Lee said.

He says no matter what kids feel right now, whether it’s anxiety or fear, those emotions are valid. For example, if kids express fear about going to school themselves, that’s a normal reaction.

“Let them tell us how they feel,” Lee said. “It is important to allow them to express themselves, and even if it's something you don't agree with, it's important to allow them to verbalize how they feel.”

Lee says parents can also seek advice from someone they trust, whether that’s a faith leader or coworker. They can work with their child’s school to understand safety and security policies, while working together to help students feel safe.