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How to talk to kids about the Uvalde school shooting

The CEO of the Idaho Youth Ranch, a counseling service for youth and families, offers parents and guardians advice on how to approach the topic with their kids.

BOISE, Idaho — The shooting at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 students and two teachers, is very traumatic for survivors, their friends and family. It also has created questions and anxiety for students across the country. 

The CEO of the Idaho Youth Ranch, a counseling service for youth and families, offers parents and guardians advice on how to approach the topic with their kids.

"Caring adults are really important for kids, especially in a moment like this," CEO for Idaho Youth Ranch CEO, Scott Curtis said.

When Curtis heard about what happened at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon, his heart sank.

"I really just started thinking about the parents and the teachers and those kids - the trauma that they experienced," Curtis said.

Then he began to think about the kids and teens hearing about this traumatic event and the anxiety they may now have.

"Most young people are hearing the news and they're plugged in," Curtis said.

Curtis believes it's important for parents and adult family members to have these conversations surrounding mental health.

"We don't want kids to ever feel like there's something they can't talk about to adults in their lives," Curtis said. "We're the outlet they need."

Curtis advises parents to not be afraid to ask their kids how they feel and to even share their own feelings.

"I think it's okay just to say, 'hey, I really want to talk to you. There's something that happened that really bothered me and I know you know about it. So, let's talk about it. What have you heard? More importantly, what are you feeling about it?'" Curtis said.

However, Curtis said it is crucial to make sure parents are aware of their own emotions and concerns before approaching their kids. He added it's important to make sure they don't overwhelm the child - which could add more fear to the situation.

"That's too much to lay on a kid," Curtis said.

With many school years ending or already over, Curtis advised it's best to approach this topic as soon as possible.

"Don't put this off and wait until maybe they're going back to school, because they'll be processing this all summer," Curtis said.

He said by taking these conversations on as soon as possible, kids should feel better and less anxious by the new school year.

"Particularly if the adults reassure them of how rare this is and what kind of safety there really is out there for them," Curtis said. 

Parents also need to be aware of signs of anxiety in their kids when an event like this happens. It could be a change in the pattern of behavior, sleep or irritability. Curtis pointed out every child is different and they all handle grief and anxiety differently, but at some point, most children begin to feel better.

"If anxiety and fear or other responses are staying the same, and it's at a high level or getting worse, that's when they need to get help," Curtis said.

Idaho Youth Ranch offers resources for talking with children in response to Uvalde tragedy on their website.

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