Listen more, talk less, when addressing school shootings with your kids

Mar 28, 2023, 2:00 PM

Multiple consequences can arise from school shootings, a Utah therapist stresses that listening and...

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 27: A parent walks with their kids from Woodmont Baptist Church where children were reunited with their families after a mass shooting at The Covenant School on March 27, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. According to initial reports, three students and three adults were killed by the shooter, a 28-year-old woman. The shooter was killed by police responding to the scene. (Seth Herald /Getty Images)

(Seth Herald /Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — The strategy of trying to keep bad news from kids, especially when the news is a school shooting, doesn’t work says a Utah family therapist.

There are just too many sources online, in-app, and through friends to keep children sheltered from such news.

And while trying to shield stories from kids, such as the Nashville school shooting this week, a Utah family therapist said talking about the issue is the better way.

“I think one of the most important things to do (is to) talk about this a lot,” family therapist Jenn Oxborrow told KSL NewsRadio.

And she had this important distinction.

“Parents (should) listen more and talk less, and validate how their kids are feeling.”

That validation part is important, Oxborrow said, and she knows it’s important because it comes straight from the mouths of younger generations. 

She stresses that frequently young people tell her, as a therapist, they trust those who listen to them and want to understand their feelings. 

Oxborrow recommends that parents listen and let their children know their concerns are being heard. 

“And then try to build protective factors around them that provide reassurance and a safe place to talk about those feelings,” Oxborrow said.

A big job, for a lot of people

According to a Stanford University study, tens of thousands of parents in America each year are tasked with how to talk to their kids about school shootings. 

The same research highlights the consequences of school shootings, and why that discussion is so important to have. 

The study found that school shootings can lead to:

  • a drop in student enrollment,
  • higher use of antidepressants in the years following the shooting,
  • an increase in absenteeism and the likelihood of needing to repeat a grade
  • a higher chance that the student won’t graduate high school or college, or graduate college.

“I think whether you’re affected directly, whether you’re in a school or you witness something like this happening in your neighborhood, or in a school where you have kids that you care about, if you’re reading about it in the news, it’s taking a toll on all of us,” Oxborrow concluded.

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Listen more, talk less, when addressing school shootings with your kids