Skip to main content
News
West Orange Times & Observer Monday, Jun. 13, 2022 2 months ago

How to talk to your kids about Uvalde

Share
Open communication, asking questions and family interaction are some ways families can deal with negative emotions.
by: Andrea Mujica Staff Writer

Recently, communities within the United States have experienced not one, but several, acts of violence that have forced families to have tough and delicate conversations at home.

West Orange-based therapists say validation and honesty are keys to successful conversations between parents and children.

Adult therapist Mirsha Alexandre has been practicing since 2015 and also is a mother of three. She believes adults need to validate their feelings and those of their children during difficult situations. 

“We try so hard to pretend like we are not breaking, that we are not scared, or that we are not hurt or fazed, and that doesn’t help anybody,” she said. “It doesn’t help our kids, it doesn’t help the school, it doesn’t help us.

“If the school doesn’t know the parents are scared, they are not going to change anything,” Alexandre said. “If the kids don’t know their parents are scared or feeling something, they are going to think their emotions are crazy. So stop pretending you are not feeling something and normalize it. … Talk about it with your kids, what are they feeling, validate them. You don’t have to scare them. Don’t project your fears and anxieties onto them, because they can’t handle that.”

Child therapist Marissa Siegel recommends having open communication within the household. 

“Be honest and blatant,” she said. “Depending on how old the child is if they think they are mature enough to have the conversation, don’t beat around the bush and explain that there are dangers in the world and things that are scary.” 

Jessica Villegas, from Hi-Lite Coaching and Consulting, agreed, and said calmness also is key.

“My kids are more nervous about natural disasters than they are about intruders on campus,” she said. “It is crazy, but if they have questions, we just discuss them. … Address the topic casually: Do you have any worries? Do you have any anxieties? … When you maintain calmness as a parent, your child will mirror that. So it you are very stressed and anxious, and you have a moment where you are showing them your fears, they are going to mirror that.” 

Gina Gavilanez of Westridge Middle School said: “I think they think it’s very normal. … The kids couldn’t understand why we were taking the purses and fanny packs, and the principal decided to do that because of what happened the night before. … I don’t think they think it’s so serious, from a child’s point of view.”

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Don’t ignore the topic. Depending on the age, and how much the child knows, address the conversation and be assertive. If you don’t have the answer, that’s OK. You don’t necessary have to have the answer, but provide them with a safe space to talk and feel heard. 
  • Talk about “circle of control.” Parents like to feel their kids are always safe. However, there are moments when things fall outside of their circle of control, so it makes it impossible for a parent to protect them from being in harm’s way. Ask them, what can you do about this? What can you control? 
  • Have family interactions without any electronic devices. Go out for a walk, have a nice family dinner, have a drawing session, play a board game together or even go for a bike ride. This way, the kids will realize it’s not only school, work, eat and sleep, but that there are other things involved as well. 
  • See something, say something. If your kids don’t feel that they understand the school’s protocol regarding certain situations, encourage them to talk to their teachers, to go into the principal’s office and address their concerns. Motivate them to ask the hard questions and advocate for their lives.
  •  Parents can be as involved as they want with their kids school. If they are worried about their kids’ safety, have them reach out to their teacher. Teachers are open to answer every question parents may have, being via email or phone. 
  • Learn to reflect and build resilience, whether it is with your kid or with a therapist. People need to focus on their inside health as much as on their outside health. 
  • Take some time off to decompress and relax. If you are charged with negative emotions, you are more likely to transfer that to your kids. The better you feel about yourself, the better you’ll be able to make your kids feel. 
  • Be open with your kids. Teach your kids not to abuse social media and not to abuse the use of their phones. Social media is a world in itself, and it is always going to be there. If they are watching the news on social media and they are aware of what is happening, talk to them about it. Ask them about their opinion so they can form their own and not just simply consume information. Challenge them to form their own answer to the hard questions: What do you think about that? Are you aware of what that means?

The Observer has invested in new technology, so you can enjoy a more personalized online experience. By creating a user profile on OrangeObserver.com, you can manage settings, customize content, enter contests and more, all while continuing to enjoy all the local news you care about — Click Here it's FREE.

Andrea Mujica is a staff writer for the West Orange Times & Observer, the Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida....

See All Articles by Andrea

Related Stories

Advertisement