Difficult conversations: How to talk to your kids about Texas school slayings

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Talking to your child following a tragedy like the slayings of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, can be difficult, but local experts say it’s an important conversation to have.

When you hear about a traumatic event, feelings of anxiety, danger and fear can be overwhelming.

Some educators are left wondering whether it’s better to work from home.

“At this point, is it safer to be somebody who teaches remotely?” said educator Alex Attardo. “Is it safer as a parent to have your kids learn from home?”

Such incidents can be especially traumatic for children.

“It can be really unsettling for them — frightening, in fact,” said Jeff Reiland, a child and family therapist at Gundersen Health System.

Some parents are left wondering about their child’s safety at school.

“I have a high-schooler and absolutely, I think about her safety every day,” parent Diana DiazGranados said.

It’s important for parents to talk with their kids following a traumatic event to help children understand their feelings, Reiland said.

“Sometimes parents and caregivers get so busy that they don’t notice,” he said.

One way to start the conversation is by pointing out changes in your child’s behavior.

“Are they seeing any behavior changes, any mood changes, any more clingy behavior at bedtime? Anything that’s just out of the ordinary for the child,” he said.

Adults should also remind kids that it’s important to talk to a trusted adult if they see something at school, Reiland said.

“I think kids are oftentimes caught in a bind. ‘Boy, I’ve got access to this information, I care about this person. I don’t wanna rat on them and get in trouble. I don’t want them to be mad at me’,” he said.

Sometimes, kids don’t always have the right words or know whom to approach when something happens.

“They shouldn’t have to carry that burden alone,” Reiland said. “They’re not trained to do that. That’s not their job. Their job is to be a friend, but they can’t always sort out what do I do with that information.”

Some educators say having these conversations with kids is necessary as school shootings become frequent.

“If we’re asking kids who are in kindergarten to do active shooter drills, I think we have to have these conversations if we’re not willing to change the laws.” Attardo said.

DiazGranados believes these conversations wouldn’t have to happen if elected officials took action.

“Passing laws to limit access to guns, to do background checks to make our communities all safer. They need to do their job,” she said.

As for children, Reiland says kids should always have at least one adult they can trust in a building.

If you’re looking to talk to your kids about a traumatic event like the shooting, here is a resource on how to have that conversation. 

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