Florida School Shooting: What do we tell our kids?

PARKLAND, Fla. — The gunman who opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, wiped out lives and left friends and family struggling to cope after the United States’ latest mass shooting.

Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, a widely sought-after experts in the field of mental health, joined PIX11 News Friday night to teach parents and families how to talk to children about difficult news.

In addition to having a private practice in Manhattan, Gardere is an Assistant Professor and Course Director of Behavioral Medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City. Also known as “America’s Psychologist”, is also a prolific author of four books and a contributing author of a half-dozen books including the brand-new text, “The Causes of Autism.”

How parents can explain this trauma to kids:

• Ask them what they know and what questions or discussion they may want to have.
• Ask them how they feel about the shooting and if they have any idea what the kids at the school may be going through.
• Ask them to express any thoughts they may have about the kids who were injured or killed.
• Ask them about their own school and if they know any kids like the shooter and their thoughts on that. As well, how they may want to help that person with a mental health issue. Or if they have any dears about their own school.
• If you don’t have an answer for a question and concern, let them know you don’t know…it’s oaky…you can both figure it out in time.
How to help kids feel safer at school if I they are scared to go:
• Let them know that you and the school will do your best to protect them.
• Discuss empowerment strategies if there is a shooter or some emergency; Who to call, where to go, where to hide, etc. Encourage them to encourage the school to have drills.
• Discuss signs and symptoms of mental health issues and how they should refer to a counselor.
• Stay calm as you discuss the strategies. That will also help them stay calm and not operate out of fear.

Warning signs that someone is struggling with mental issues:
• Isolation
• Anger
• Crying or sad
• Not taking pleasure in any activities they previously were involved in before

Offer some advice to help ease parents' fears as well:
• Instead of retreating into fear, we must continue to learn and utilize the information for self empowerment
• As a society we must all work together to address mental health issues and effective and sensible gun control
• We are not powerless to this. We can empower our children to deal with this brave new world.