Parents struggling to explain school shootings to their children

The school shooting in Michigan on Tuesday was at least the 28th school shooting in the U.S. this year. The shootings have put parents in the difficult spot of trying to explain to their kids what happened.

Collier County mom Jaimie Crossan-DeBres said her little girl doesn’t understand. She didn’t have an answer, but she tried her best because it’s important her daughter walk into a school and feel safe.

Pictures of kids escaping their school after the shooting blanketed television screens. Crossan-DeBres strives to shield her daughter from this horror. “I’m a firm believer in making things age-appropriate for her.”

She couldn’t stop Sophie from hearing about what happened in Michigan this week though.

“She just happened to overhear it. And was seeing sort of, you know, ambulances and stretchers going into a school and, and we’d had this discussion about what happened in a school. ‘Mom, how did kids get hurt in a school?'”

It’s a question Crossan-DeBres never dreamed she’d have to answer. “Gut-wrenching because it’s a conversation I don’t ever want to have with her. And we just had this really age-appropriate discussion about you know, sometimes things can happen that make us really unsafe. And when unsafe things happen. Unfortunately, sometimes people get hurt.”

Crossan-DeBres decided this could be a teaching moment for her 8-year-old daughter Sophie. She told her daughter, “someone had brought a weapon into a school. And she goes ‘why would they do that?’ and I said, ‘well, we don’t know why. But someone did, and people got hurt.’ that’s why we have all the protocols that we have, why you have a deputy in your school, why when mommy goes to the school, mommy has to show her driver’s license.”

Collier County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton said these conversations are important. “Parents should feel that they can talk to their kids about it because shying away from it may not help but you have to keep in mind how old your student is right or your child is.”

Dr. Patton also emphasized that the Collier County School District has sheriff’s deputies in every school and goes through safety drills multiple times throughout the year.

Crossan-DeBres said, “I think, you know, kind of shakes us to our core of all of the things and fears that we worry about putting our kids out into the world.”

Retired FGCU counseling professor Dr. Abbe Finn worked with students after the Parkland shooting. She said when talking to your kids about school shootings, Crossan-DeBres is on the right track.

“I think that it’s important to reiterate that this is a very rare occurrence. And that there are a lot of things that are built into the schools to try to keep kids safe, as best they can.”

Dr. Finn also said there is something parents should absolutely not do. “Telling children how they feel. And also to say ‘I know how you feel’ because you actually don’t. So you want to make sure that you’re open to listening to their concerns and their feelings.”

Dr. Finn also said that the most important thing is to tell your child is to come forward if he or she’s worried about a friend or having thoughts about harming others.

Reporter:Rachel Cox-Rosen
Writer:Matthew Seaver
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