In the wake of Tuesday’s mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., parents everywhere are faced with one of the most difficult questions of all: How do you talk to your child about horrific events such as these?
Domingo Rodriguez, a sixth-grader, is asking questions of his own.
“Why could someone ever do that to another person?” the middle-schooler asked about the shooting, which left 17 dead.
Domingo Rodriguez’s mother, Macarena Rodriguez, has to try to find an answer—just like parents all over the country.
“It’s better to explain them than try to hide the information,” Macarena Rodriguez said, noting that children can easily find the news on their own.
But before talking to their own children about horrific events, parents should discuss their fears and frustrations with another, said Colleen Cicchetti, a psychologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital.
After that, a parent should have a conversation with their child, Cicchetti said, but not a lecture.
“Ask what they heard, ask them what they thought about that, ask them what they’re worried about,” Cicchetti said. “Then try to answer their questions as best you can.”
Cicchetti said traumatic events such as the Parkland shooting are also good times to bring up the topic of mental health to your children. She added that you should let your kid know who they can turn to if they or their friends are depressed or being abused—and always encourage them to ask questions, even if you can’t answer them all.
Experts also recommend setting aside some time at least weekly to talk to your kids and encourage them to express their feelings.
For Domingo Rogriguez, talking is his recommendation: “Talk to your family, to your teacher. Just talk about it. (Don’t) keep it to yourself.”