BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, children across Western New York arrived at school Monday morning with a lot of questions about the tragic shooting in Las Vegas that killed at least 58 people and injured hundreds more.
Richard Diaz, the school social worker at the Charter High School for Applied Technologies, told News 4 it’s normal for kids to ask questions at a time like this.
“I think it’s very normal and I think it’s important that when we’re talking to the students that we let them know that it’s normal because sometimes kids who experience these intense emotions for the first time are unaware or unsure of how to handle it, so we try to normalize it especially as teachers, therapists, school counselors, we let them know that they’re not the only ones going through these emotions,” he said.
Diaz, who has worked with children ages three through 18 as a social worker and outpatient therapist, says in the wake of a tragedy like what happened in Las Vegas, kids can experience a wide range of emotions. “Anything from anger to extreme sadness to frustration to being overly anxious,” he said.
When talking with your kids about what happened, Diaz says it’s important to tell them it’s okay to feel whatever emotions they’re feeling.
He also says you should reaffirm the supports that are available to them at school, at home, and in the community. “Aunts, uncles,” Diaz suggested. “Just let them know that there’s some one they can reach out to and talk to.”
Diaz says the biggest thing to keep in mind when you’re talking to your child about something like this is that it’s critical that you are honest with them. He says you should not exaggerate, you should not repeat unconfirmed rumors, and you should not make anything up.
“Sometimes students want to know why a tragedy happened, and as adults, we don’t know the answers, and it’s okay to say I don’t know,” Diaz said.
In the wake of this tragedy, Diaz says you should be careful not to give young children too many details. You know your child best and you know how much information is too much for them to handle.
“You only want to give them stuff that’s developmentally appropriate and not overload them with information that might cause more harm than good,” Diaz said.
For people of all ages, it will likely take a long time to process all of the feelings and reactions to what happened in Las Vegas. Diaz suggests parents keep an eye on their kids during this time.
“If you see that your kid is struggling, if you notice some of their behaviors have changed over time or they’re not acting normal, have a conversation with them, ask them what’s going on, what they’re thinking about,” he said.
Diaz says some children may be more comfortable talking to someone outside of the family, like a teacher or a therapist. He urges parents to make those resources available if they’re needed.