Counselors provide advice for talking with your kids about mass shootings

Reporter: Anika Henanger
Published: Updated:

Many parents are wondering what to tell their kids as they head back to school and how to handle the amount of sad news after recent mass shootings, including the two over this weekend.

Within 24 hours, there were two mass shootings – one in El Paso, Texas and the second in Dayton, Ohio – leaving dozens dead. Many people will rewatch these tragedies hundreds of times.

Dr. Laura Streyffeler, mental health and forensic counselor with her own practice in Fort Myers, said anyone could experience secondary trauma – even kids.

“Seeing all these traumas, over and over, people aren’t just seeing them once,” Streyffeler said. “You can’t watch that stuff all day long and not get some on you.”

Streyffeler said even young children are bound to see or hear about the shootings somewhere. Starting conversations, especially before kids head back to school, can help.

“Are they talking to their friends about it?” Streyffeler said. “What are their friends saying about it?”

Dr. Abbe Finn, a clinical mental health program director at Florida Gulf Coast University, said another reason the shootings hit hard is violence shakes our sense of security.

“We say, ‘oh, it can’t happen here,'” Finn said. “Well, now it happened in Dayton and it’s happened in El Paso. It’s happened in many other places. So you need to have ways of talking yourself down from gloom and doom and anxiety. Do something that helps you feel connected.”

Counselors told WINK News that if someone is severely concerned, such as having trouble sleeping, strong anxiety, gloom or desperation, then it is a good time to touch base with a therapist or counselor.

Living in Southwest Florida, which is close to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland where 17 people were killed in February 2018, these tragedies can also act as a trigger.

“This is absolutely a trigger for unresolved survivor guilt or other senses like that,” Finn said. “If that’s happening for you, reach out and get some help.”

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