WLU Psychologist Says Kids Should Be Informed

When the shock of Friday’s mass murder at a Connecticut elementary school begins to wane, parents may find their children asking plenty of questions.

Tammy McClain, associate professor and interim chairwoman of the psychology department at West Liberty University, said it is never easy to make sense of this type of violence, but parents are encouraged to talk with their children about it.

“Probably the most important thing is to encourage their children to talk about the event, what happened and what upsets them about it,” McClain said. “Parents should keep in mind that this won’t be a one-time conversation.”

McClain suggests that as children learn more about this latest school shooting and deaths, they likely will have added questions and concerns. They may even show signs of stress and fear.

“If they are traumatized, they will bring it up again and again,” McClain said. “They will be looking for reassurance, and it’s important that parents talk about their own feelings with their children, of course, keeping in mind that it should be an age-appropriate conversation.”

While parents know that violence such as Friday’s shooting can occur at any time or any place, they need to calm their own fears in order to help their children. McClain said it’s OK to tell children that they also are afraid sometimes, but also assure them that they will do their best to protect them.

Teachers, too, can help their students deal with this tragedy by talking about the safety measures already in place at their schools.

“They can reiterate why the school doors are kept locked and things like that as a way of assuring them that schools are doing all they can to keep them safe,” McClain offered.

Parents should be aware that if their children have trouble sleeping or show other signs of stress after learning of the school shooting deaths, they should seek help for their children through school counselors or other professionals.

Adults having a difficult time processing the senseless deaths also need to know it’s OK to be afraid, McClain said.

“Every time something like this happens, it brings us face to face with the fact that life is uncertain. It makes us afraid to let our kids leave us.. That’s why we, as parents, need to talk it out,” McClain said.

She suggests adults also tell children that it’s the right thing to do to report threats or bullying to an adult.