Helping children understand school violence

School districts in our area tell students to reach out to staff with concerns
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 6:40 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas Tuesday has left many people at a loss for words. Schools are trying to keep everyone calm while identifying the issue. As parents try to process what happened, it’s also a difficult topic to bring up to your kids. Mental health experts say the first thing parents should do is find out just how much their kids know about the shooting.

Children’s Wisconsin- Milwaukee Hospital said it’s important for kids to understand and to feel safe. Helping kids process a deadly massacre is an uncharted territory for many parents. Emotions and feelings of uncertainty may create difficult and uncomfortable conversations.

“You wanna be honest with your kiddo, but also keep it simple in terms of that information that you’re providing,” said Children’s Wisconsin Clinical Director of Mental and Behavioral Health Dr. Jenny Walczak.

Dr. Walczak said while it’s important for kids to understand the violence, over-exposure to the event can be harmful to kids’ mental health. She said as parents, it’s key to learn what they already know.

“That can really give you a sense of where they’re at and what they’ve heard so you can provide correct information and meet them where they’re at,” Dr. Walczak said.

Dr. Walczak said teaching your kids about gun safety and talking about mental health will also have long-term benefits. She said if your kids are worried, to validate those feelings.

“I would not push your child to do anything that they do not feel comfortable doing right now,” Walczak said.

D.C. Everest Area School District in Marathon County is still processing what happened.

“The world is unfortunately at times an evil place, an unforgiving place,” D.C. Everest Area School District Director of Student Services Dr. Jeff Lindell said.

Lindell said everyone responds to these situations differently. If students feel concerned, they should reach out to staff.

“We’ve got relationships and connections with students and how do we capitalize on a day like today when some kids might struggle more than others in terms of navigating through the emotions,” Lindell said.

At the Wausau School District, they sent out a letter to parents on Wednesday. They said their pupil services staff is available at all of their schools to help students and staff process what happened. They said if they believe it’s necessary, they’ll step up their police presence.

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