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The shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas is deeply traumatic for survivors, their families, and school teachers and staff. It can also emotionally affect other students across the country.
American children regularly practice active fire drills and consider the possibility of a crisis in their own classrooms from an early age, making school shootings like Uvalde’s very upsetting for some, says Melissa Brymer, director of terrorism and disaster programs at the UCLA-Duke National Center for Childhood Traumatic Stress.
Brymer joined Morning Edition to talk about discussing traumatic events with children, including those who were at Robb Elementary and survived.
She stresses the importance of being honest with children and adolescents, even on difficult subjects.
Brymer says that for the survivors of the shooting, “it’s really important – as we hug them, give them some space – to reach out to them and ask them: How are they feeling? witnessed? And support them.”
She says talking to kids about school shootings can be upsetting, and with children in particular, you may need to have upsetting conversations in small chunks for them to understand.
Brymer notes that grief and sadness can cause children and teens to change their routines or have trouble sleeping, and the loved ones caring for them will have to adapt.
As summer vacation begins for Uvalde students, Brymer sees youth programs with adults trained in trauma responses as a critical need. And she notes that resources will need to be provided on an ongoing basis to students and adults at Uvalde.
“Then we need to prepare for next year and make sure there are appropriate services and programs for our educators as well as our children,” Brymer said.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has resources available in English and Spanish to help children cope.