Psychologist explains talking to children following mass shooting

Posted at 2:21 PM, Jun 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-16 17:46:19-04

Virginia Beach, Va. - Conversations about mass shootings can be difficult, especially with children.

But sometimes it cannot be avoided.

Dr. Rick Ellis, a local Clinical Psychologist , says kids react to these situations more than parents expect.

He says the conversation should always focus on safety.

"They need to let their child know that they`re safe," Ellis explained. "That they're not where it's happening."

Situations like the mass shooting in Orlando - popping up on social media and TV screens can leave your kids scared with many unanswered questions.

"They may pick up from what they perceive to be going on. They may hear bits and pieces. They may need, at their level, an explanation to reduce that anxiety, Ellis said.

He says that explanation depends on how old your child is.

"Obviously, the younger the child is, the more basic the information needs to be. "The younger a child is, the more they're reliant on their parents emotions," Ellis said.

Mary Giencke, who has a two-year-old son, says she hasn`t had to have that conversation but is prepared.

"I think it would just depend on age appropriateness and seeing exactly if they can handle it. I think most days now it's on Facebook and social media or in school, so I  think at that point - go ahead and address it once it has already been talked about," Giencke explained.

If you're child doesn't bring up the issue, Dr. Ellis says don't force the conversation.

He does say pay attention to any behavior changes.

"Parents need to be aware whether a child is becoming more withdrawn or more acting out," he explained.

Ellis says once you talk with your children, start getting the family back into their normal daily routines.