ATLANTA - The massacre inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas has left a lot of parents questioning what to say and what to do with children who are struggling to cope with such a horrible act of violence.
Dr. Terescah Lemon, a licensed professional counselor and a therapist for one of metro Atlanta's largest school districts, suggests parents have age appropriate conversations when they discuss the crime and only after parents have worked through their own emotions about the crime without stirring up anxieties.
"You have to be prepared to have a calm and comforting conversation. Typically, if a child is 8 or older, we don't give all that graphic information, just very simple sentences like, ‘Someone did a horrible thing and it's very sad because several people died as a result.' Then ask, 'Have you heard about it and how do you feel about it? Then, let them talk," said Dr. Lemon.
With children older than eight and adolescents, the therapist suggests you get a sense of how they're feeling about what they've already heard or seen.
"This allows you to understand what they're taking in and dispel any rumors or clarify what happened," she added.
When children ask why did this happen or why did God let this happen, the answer, Dr. Lemon said, should also be a simple one.
"Tell them 'There are some things we just can't explain. We have to remember that thing called free will, but that doesn't mean God doesn't love us and that doesn't mean God isn't here to heal us. It just means some people make horrible decisions,'" said Lemon, who is also a minister. "But the bottom line is just make sure your children know they are safe, out of harm's way and that they can always talk to you about anything. You have to get them back to a sense of normalcy and a regular routine that they're accustomed to," said Lemon.
The therapist also said parents should not be afraid to admit they don't have the answers and that it's okay to turn to an expert for help. She can be reached at her DeKalb County practice at 678-615-8815 or email@example.com. She also recommends parents contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 or the National Parent Helpline 855-427-2736.