May 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

How to talk to kids about Uvalde

Illustration of a chalkboard in the shape of a speech bubble.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

We're all scrambling for ways to help when tragedy strikes. Here’s one big way: Help ease kids through the awfulness.

  • Listen to them. Be honest with them. Take "news breaks" with them.

Why it matters: Kids often simply need to talk things out and know someone — anyone — is listening.

Schools around the country did something yesterday that would have been unimaginable a generation ago:

  • They sent home pointers about how to talk to kids about mass tragedy, as parents and teachers navigate the aftermath of Uvalde.

With help from Axios Local reporters coast to coast, Finish Line pulled together tips from school leaders, for you to use and pass along.

  • Here's what parents are being told from Colorado to New York, Wisconsin to Texas:
  1. Listen: "Discuss news stories with your children, asking about their thoughts and feelings about what they saw, read, or heard and correct any misunderstandings or confusion," Hafedh Azaiez, superintendent of Round Rock schools in suburban Austin, wrote to parents.
  2. Watch: Be aware of what older kids are seeing online. You'd be shocked how much on-the-scene video gets shared on Instagram and TikTok.
  3. Preserve routines: Kids feel safety in normalcy. Try not to marinate in — or let kids marinate in — the sadness and madness.
  4. Be honest: Encourage questions, and tailor answers based on kids' age. If they're under 7, keep it simple and say something like: "Someone hurt people." For older kids, provide clear answers — while also reassuring them that parents, teachers and administrators have plans to keep them safe.
  5. Take care of yourself: "Allow yourself to feel, to grieve, to be angry, to be frustrated," Minneapolis Public Schools told families. "Then collect yourself before engaging with your child."

💭 John Wallace, principal of Randall Elementary in Madison, Wisconsin, told students:

  • "[Y]our teachers and I talk about these things all the time and have plans in place if anything should not seem right. We don’t talk to you about that, but I want you to know we talk about that."

Several school districts directed parents and educators to in-depth resources from organizations that specialize in trauma response:

💡 The bottom line: This is hard. Check in with the kids, parents, teachers and school workers in your life — and with yourself. It's not about having the perfect thing to say, psychologists tell us. It's about showing up.

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