How to speak with your children about their own safety after a school shooting

Students released from a lockdown embrace following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – After any school shooting, it’s natural for children to worry about their own school and their own safety.

Psychological first aid is something every parent needs to know how to execute to the personal needs of a child after a tragedy. That’s because witnessing the sounds and sights of a school massacre affects students in many ways.

We turned to Clara Reynolds, President and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, for guidance.

“You’re going to have some kids that are going to be absolutely hysterical,” said Reynolds. “They’re going to be inconsolable and you’re going to have other kids at the other end of the spectrum that are just numb.”

She says anywhere along that spectrum is normal and suggests parents start the communication process by asking them questions.

“Finding out what information do you know, correcting any misinformation and then just talk to your child. Talk about how you’re feeling. By not talking to them, you’re telling them you’re not prepared to be able to handle whatever they have to say,” said Reynolds.

She says always remember to reassure a child of your concern about their safety.

“I would absolutely start with ‘I want you to be safe,’ ‘I want you to feel safe and in order for you to feel safe, I need to make sure you’ve got information to know what that is,’” is her advice.

And for parents with kids who don’t like to sit and talk to you?

“Get their hands busy,” Reynolds said. “You know, talk in the car, talk while you’re doing dishes, talk while you’re bouncing a basketball or whatever it may be. Have those discussions. Talk about how you’re feeling so they can talk about how they’re feeling.”

Regardless of your child’s age, the bottom line is to show a willingness to answer questions and listen to their concerns and fears. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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