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Answering your students questions about school safety | When, how and what age parents should talk school shootings

Louisville Doctor of Psychology shares guidance on discussing school shootings with students of all ages.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A new school year comes with new supplies, new emotions, and maybe even new conversations with your children.

So far in 2022, 27 schools have endured the trauma and pain accompanying a shooting in the place you send your kids to learn.

Patti Weiter, President-Elect of the Kentucky Psychological Association, answered questions about how and when to discuss danger at school, depending on your child's age, with your student.

"It's concerning to me that they are experiencing these realistic scenarios we have to run through, of what if this happens?" Weiter said of kids continuously running school shooting drills.

As of Aug. 10, 83 people in 2022 were killed or injured in a school shooting, according to Education Week.

As much as making sure your student is prepared for a test or ready to make new friends, a reality in schools across Kentuckiana is being prepared for a school shooting. 

First day of school for JCPS students is soon, here's what to know

"I think avoiding the conversation all together can leave kids to fill in the gaps on their own" Weiter said.  "We don't want that to happen.  We don't want them going to search the Internet on their own or talk to their friend without having conversations with a trusted adult."

There's no specific 'right time' to have the talk, but by failing to talk to your child about gun violence, you leave their imaginations open to create worst case scenarios.

Sometimes in these situations, Weiter says the best thing you as a parent or trusted adult, is simply listen.

"Letting them talk," she said when asked about how to guide the conversation.  "Asking some questions to allow them to open up about what's concerning to them, what's on their mind, what are their hopes for the upcoming school year?"

If your child brings up anxieties about safety, reiterate the school and adults are doing everything they can to keep them safe while they're in that building.

In making sure your kids are ready, don't forget the old adage 'You can't pour from an empty glass.'

"Take care of yourself," Weiter suggested to parents.  "Before you can take care of your child, and really come from a place to have a good conversation with them, you have to take care of you. Manage your own emotions and anxieties so you aren't misplacing those on your kids."

For resources on how to start these conversations and how to manage the content, you can click this link.  There, you'll find details on conversation starters, and how to find counselors in our community.

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