#childsafety | Florida experts share tips for speaking with your children about Texas mass shooting



Parents in South Florida, like parents around the U.S., are having difficult conversations with their children following the deadly school shooting in Texas. Parents are also working to manage their own dealing with fear and anxiety following that massacre.Here are tips from some local experts for how parents can broach this tough subject with their children.Liza Piekarsky, licensed mental health counselorLiza Piekarsky, a licensed mental health counselor with Retreat Behavioral Health in Lake Worth, provided support for teachers in Parkland following the 2018 massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. She says some children may not be ready to discuss the mass shooting in Texas right away.”Know what is age-appropriate,” Piekarsky said. “You might not want to engage with a three-year-old and tell them about what is going on so know your audience in order to better serve them and be a support to them.“Don’t wait for them to ask you. Ask them, ‘Hey did you see what happened on the news? What are your thoughts on that? Do you have any feelings? Is there anything that you want to talk about today?’ Giving them the opportunity to create that open dialogue with them, if and when they’re ready. “If you ask your child and they say, ‘Oh yeah. I saw it on the news’ and they really don’t pay mind to it, maybe you don’t engage further, but having those discussions and letting them know it’s a safe place to share their emotions and be able to if they need to speak to somebody.”Everybody has their own grieving process and maybe within the 24 hours of a significant tragedy, they might not be ready. It might take them a few days and it might take them a few weeks but be mindful of some of those red flags that are presenting. Is the child isolating in his room and refusing to talk to anybody about the topic, which is not a typical behavior for this child? Then that is a red flag.”Piekarsky says when you discuss what happened with your children, you can express your emotions, but try not to appear too afraid or stressed in front of your kids.She says it’s important to let your children know they are safe and loved. She also discussed what parents can do to manage their fear.“There is absolutely going to be fear,” Piekarsky said. “This is not the first time. This has been reoccurring. This shouldn’t be happening and yet it continues to happen so there is going to be fear and of course, we want to instill this safety in our children and let them know even when things might be out of our control, we still want to let them know that they are safe, that the teachers are there to keep them safe, that they can talk to anybody who they want to about it. Continue to provide hugs, telling them you love them, exuding this and providing an environment that provides safety for them even when they don’t necessarily feel that way.”She says parents should seek out professional help for their children if their kids’ behavior or daily habits are changing due to a tragedy.Around the country: National coverage from WPBF 25 NewsDr. Terry Lyles, PsychologistLocal psychologist Dr. Terry Lyles says parents do not need to discuss the massacre in Texas if their child is very young and does not ask about the mass shooting.“The rule of thumb is, ‘If (your small children are) not asking questions, they probably don’t know,’ so it’s probably better left unsaid,” Lyles said.He also said it’s important to let your children know they are safe and loved. He says young children in elementary school might not need to give a verbal response when you speak to them about this subject. “If they’re more in the teen years, they’re probably going to want to dialogue or not dialogue, but a second, third or fourth grader are probably going to want to listen to you and take your advice because you’re the parent in the home,” Lyles said.He also asks parents to watch out for changes in their children’s behavior or daily habits and to seek professional help if necessary.“Be vigilant, if anything is different or unusual just act accordingly,” Lyles said.He says the best way for children and parents to deal with the stress from any fear following the mass shooting or other traumatic events is to be as prepared as possible in the event they are in danger.”Prepare, prepare, prepare and if you are prepared, the fear seems to diminish on the act of something that goes wrong because you know what to do,” Lyles said. “The biggest fear is not knowing. If you know something is potentially going to happen and it’s not like you anticipate it but you’re guarded for it, when that happens, you know what to do. The biggest fear is not knowing.”Follow us on social: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Parents in South Florida, like parents around the U.S., are having difficult conversations with their children following the deadly school shooting in Texas. Parents are also working to manage their own dealing with fear and anxiety following that massacre.

Here are tips from some local experts for how parents can broach this tough subject with their children.

Liza Piekarsky, licensed mental health counselor

Liza Piekarsky, a licensed mental health counselor with Retreat Behavioral Health in Lake Worth, provided support for teachers in Parkland following the 2018 massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. She says some children may not be ready to discuss the mass shooting in Texas right away.

“Know what is age-appropriate,” Piekarsky said. “You might not want to engage with a three-year-old and tell them about what is going on so know your audience in order to better serve them and be a support to them.

“Don’t wait for them to ask you. Ask them, ‘Hey did you see what happened on the news? What are your thoughts on that? Do you have any feelings? Is there anything that you want to talk about today?’ Giving them the opportunity to create that open dialogue with them, if and when they’re ready.

“If you ask your child and they say, ‘Oh yeah. I saw it on the news’ and they really don’t pay mind to it, maybe you don’t engage further, but having those discussions and letting them know it’s a safe place to share their emotions and be able to if they need to speak to somebody.

“Everybody has their own grieving process and maybe within the 24 hours of a significant tragedy, they might not be ready. It might take them a few days and it might take them a few weeks but be mindful of some of those red flags that are presenting. Is the child isolating in his room and refusing to talk to anybody about the topic, which is not a typical behavior for this child? Then that is a red flag.”

Piekarsky says when you discuss what happened with your children, you can express your emotions, but try not to appear too afraid or stressed in front of your kids.

She says it’s important to let your children know they are safe and loved.

She also discussed what parents can do to manage their fear.

“There is absolutely going to be fear,” Piekarsky said. “This is not the first time. This has been reoccurring. This shouldn’t be happening and yet it continues to happen so there is going to be fear and of course, we want to instill this safety in our children and let them know even when things might be out of our control, we still want to let them know that they are safe, that the teachers are there to keep them safe, that they can talk to anybody who they want to about it. Continue to provide hugs, telling them you love them, exuding this and providing an environment that provides safety for them even when they don’t necessarily feel that way.”

She says parents should seek out professional help for their children if their kids’ behavior or daily habits are changing due to a tragedy.

Around the country: National coverage from WPBF 25 News

Dr. Terry Lyles, Psychologist

Local psychologist Dr. Terry Lyles says parents do not need to discuss the massacre in Texas if their child is very young and does not ask about the mass shooting.

“The rule of thumb is, ‘If (your small children are) not asking questions, they probably don’t know,’ so it’s probably better left unsaid,” Lyles said.

He also said it’s important to let your children know they are safe and loved. He says young children in elementary school might not need to give a verbal response when you speak to them about this subject.

“If they’re more in the teen years, they’re probably going to want to dialogue or not dialogue, but a second, third or fourth grader are probably going to want to listen to you and take your advice because you’re the parent in the home,” Lyles said.

He also asks parents to watch out for changes in their children’s behavior or daily habits and to seek professional help if necessary.

“Be vigilant, if anything is different or unusual just act accordingly,” Lyles said.

He says the best way for children and parents to deal with the stress from any fear following the mass shooting or other traumatic events is to be as prepared as possible in the event they are in danger.

“Prepare, prepare, prepare and if you are prepared, the fear seems to diminish on the act of something that goes wrong because you know what to do,” Lyles said. “The biggest fear is not knowing. If you know something is potentially going to happen and it’s not like you anticipate it but you’re guarded for it, when that happens, you know what to do. The biggest fear is not knowing.”

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