Kalamazoo shootings: Talking to children about tragedy

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EAST LANSING, MI. (WLNS)- The shootings in Kalamazoo are raising questions about how to talk about violent events like these, especially when it comes to parents talking to their children about them.

People across the country are reacting to the shootings in Kalamazoo — and that includes children.

Natalie Moser is the Director of the Michigan State University Psychological Clinic. She says there’s a lot of variability in how children respond to violent events.

“A lot of that comes from their previous knowledge, their previous information, how parents have talked about these things in the past,” said Moser, who is a licensed psychologist.

So how should parents approach these conversations?

“Having a parent who can validate those feelings, and help the children to understand that it’s a normal reaction to feel sadness or fear or anxiety, when something like this happens is really important,” Moser said.

In addition to validating their kids’ emotions, Moser says parents should remain calm to create a safe space for dialogue, ask them how much they know to avoid going into too much detail, and engage them based on what’s appropriate for their age level.

But the most important thing?

“Help reassure their children about the rarity of these events and how truly unlikely they are, even though what they see in the media, like today or yesterday, might make it seem like it’s so salient and maybe even common,” Moser said.

And Moser says the good news is that events like the one in Kalamazoo don’t usually have a lasting effect on youngsters.

“Most people are able to have a negative reaction, and then like we said, sort of cope, and move on,” Moser said.

Moving on — something we’re all trying to do.

Check out the Seen on 6 section of our website for some helpful resources.

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