Talking to your kids about the Uvalde school shooting

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — If you’re a parent, you’ve probably already started having very difficult conversations with your children about what happened in Texas.

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News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke spoke with Dr. Anthony Pisani, a child and family psychologist to get some advice for parents.

Dr. Pisani Before you start telling, the first thing to do is ask. So, ask what they already know. You can ask things like, “what have you heard about this so far?” “What are kids saying about it and what do you think about it?” – Sometimes, we think we have to give all the answers but I think it’s important to pose those questions and then the answers that your kids give whether their 6 or 16 will let you know at what level they’re processing that.

Jennifer Lewke – And then what? What if they say, they are simply afraid to go to school?

Dr. Pisani I think one thing I’d be careful of is trying to assure kids of 100% safety. We’re in an era of a new kind of warfare, just coming off of a pandemic, there’s violence, there’s uncertainty about extreme climate events we can’t really assure safety so, I think it’s good to be honest about that so when in doubt, tell the truth. Say none of us are 100% safe but where you go to school and where I go to work, we’re taking steps to try and plan and be safe.

Jennifer Lewke – Most kids are now doing active shooter drills, is there a benefit to going over that information with your kids at home or could that raise their anxiety?

Dr. Pisani The evidence that I have seen so far is that the lockdown drills don’t overall increase people’s anxieties or kids’ anxieties… it’s a step of kind of showing we’re getting prepared so maybe there’s even ways you can think through of, if you ever were in the situation here’s what we could do and maybe even conversations about how would you help other students? I think helping kids think about what I can do to help others will put them out of a victim mentality and towards a helper and active mentality so maybe someone going over some of those things can be helpful.

Jennifer Lewke – As far as the political conversations that the tragedies in Texas and Buffalo have already led to—what’s the best way to talk with your kids about the divisive nature of our country right now?

Dr. Pisani We want our kids to grow up in a society where people find their common ground and respect others who have different views about solutions so, we have to model that…not mocking, not putting down other people’s views. I think the place to start with kids is reminding them that everybody agrees on the problem nobody, no matter where you are in the political spectrum, wants there to be shootings in schools or in supermarkets and so, if we can emphasize the common ground and make the distinction not about the problem but about we have different ideas about the solutions. Some people strongly believe in gun safety rules, other people believe there’s other kinds of solutions but focusing on our common ground at a time like this, I think it’s especially important for kids to see and hear that.

A local psychologist who is an expert in managing anxiety provides advice for parents and children following Tuesday’s Texas school shooting:

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Anxiety. That’s the overwhelming emotion plaguing so many parents and their children following the deadly mass shooting in Texas that took the lives of 19 elementary school children and two teachers. Dr. Jamie Elizabeth Blackmon is a Rochester Regional Health psychologist who specializes in anxiety. She says the key to dealing with anxiety is creating a “circle of control.” Imagine all the things about which you have control: Telling your child you love her, putting an extra treat and a note in her lunch, spending more time with her before school, etc. Focus on that which you can control and accept that which is out of your control.