Tips on how to talk to kids about the Atlanta shootings
ATLANTA - The images are hard to shake, and so are the stories of what happened on the 11th floor of the Northside Midtown Medical Building.
Natolie Gray, a licensed professional counselor with InPowerment in Lawrenceville, says this attack -- in a medical setting, where many have long felt safe, is deeply unsettling, even for those who were not directly impacted.
"I would say to give yourself the space and the time to process it, you don't have to rush it," Gray says, "We don't have to just go on and expect that we'll be okay."
The mass shooting, and the resulting school lock-downs, have also affected children.
"I think it's important to have conversations with our kids," Gray says. "I definitely think first, as the adult or the parent, that we first have to kind of process a little ourselves. I know for myself, I thought about let me sit with what's going on with me before I have a conversation with my children. But we need to have these conversations with kids because whether they are aware of what happened, maybe those that are close in that area that would directly impact it, or even kids who are further away, that just kind of felt like the tension of the uncertainty of it all."
Gray says ask open-ended questions to help kids sort out what they might be feeling, especially those whose schools went into lockdown during the search for the suspect.
"Do you remember what was happening right before that," Gray recommends asking. "How did you feel? I typically wouldn't start with a how-do-you-feel question first. Just kind of get them thinking before we start in getting them processing those feelings.
Allowing a child to talk about the attack will allow you to understand what they are thinking, Gray says.
"Sometimes they don't have the words, they don't have the language," Gray says. "So it's important to be able to give them maybe they draw a picture and that picture can capture what's happening when they can't put it into words, and that's okay to write, as long as they're getting it out."
And, Gray says, reassure kids they are safe.
"Safety is so important," she says. "It's an emotional need that we all have. How do we help them to feel that?
For employees and patients, returning to the building when it reopens will be difficult.
"A lot of the times when trauma happens, they'll have someone come in to that workplace and really support those employees to get through all that's coming up for them and process because a lot of what happened today, they were in shock," Gray says. "A lot of them may feel numbness, and they'll need time to process what's coming up for me and how is this making me feel?"
People who have experienced trauma or grief in the past may have a harder time absorbing the details of the shootings.
For some people, they may need extra help to process this," Gray says. "So we want to be mindful that some people may need support and really talking about what's been going on