Mental health experts offer advice for parents to talk about school shootings with kids

image of Andy Frey, Kent School faculty LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -

Whether it's miles away in Parkland, Florida, or closer to home in Marshall County, Kentucky, where a school shooting happened earlier this month, random acts of violence can be tough to process, especially for students.

Mental health experts say it's good for parents to get into the routine of starting conversations at home, and doing so doesn't have to be difficult.

"It's really important for parents to be the one to start that conversation, not to rely on your kids to bring it up," said Andy Frey, a University of Louisville professor who specializes in school mental health issues.

He said starting those conversations with students can be simple.

"Ask them what they know and how they found out about it," Frey said. "Ask them are other kids talking about it. What are they saying? And then ask them if they have questions."

Frey said it doesn't have to be a long talk, but parents should validate their child's feelings. He said there's no right or wrong response. He also pointed out that parents should limit kids' access to TV after acts of major violence.

"It can be really destructive to have kids exposed to this over and over and over again," he said. "Even the really young kids can think it's happening over and over again when they see it."

Parents should also remind students of school safety protocols already in place.

"There are no guarantees, but schools are very safe places," Frey said. "And the likelihood that anything is going to happen to them and in their school is really quite small."

He said parents should let their child know that they play a role in keeping others safe.

"There's a difference between tattling and communicating to adults about safety needs," Frey said. "A lot of things we find out so incidents like this are prevented come from the kids themselves."

If students do notice anything suspicious, Frey said parents should report it to a teacher or administrator at the school.

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