Latest News

A child trauma expert explains how parents can support kids in Uvalde and elsewhere

People mourn outside of the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

May 25, 20222:25 PM ET

The shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is deeply traumatic for survivors, their families, and the faculty and staff at the school. It also may be emotionally affecting other students across the country.

American children regularly practice active-shooter drills and consider the possibility of a crisis in their own classrooms from a young age, making school shootings like the one in Uvalde very upsetting news for some, says Melissa Brymer, the director of terrorism and disaster programs at the UCLA-Duke National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.

Brymer joined Morning Edition to talk about discussing traumatic events with children, including those who were at Robb Elementary and survived.

She highlights the importance of being truthful with kids and teens, even about difficult topics.

Brymer says that for survivors of the shooting, “it’s really important — as we hug them, give them some space — check in with them and ask them: What are they feeling? What did they witness? And provide them support.”

She says talking to kids about school shootings can be upsetting, and with kids especially, you may need to have upsetting conversations in small chunks for them to understand.

Brymer notes grief and sadness may cause children and teens to change their routines or have trouble sleeping and loved ones caring for them will need to adjust.

With summer vacation beginning for students in Uvalde, Brymer sees youth programs with adults trained in trauma responses as a critical need. And she notes that resources will need to provided continually for students and adults in Uvalde.

“Then we have to gear up to next year and make sure that there’s proper services and programming for our educators as well as our kids,” Brymer says.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has resources available in both English and in Spanish for helping children cope.

SHARE

Important Notice:

We have been thinking a lot about all of the recent events, the cascade of news of gun violence across this country, and how we see our own community mirrored in so many of the ones permanently impacted by these tragedies. We want to reach out to you in love and support, to let you know that, particularly when you go to the market, or send your children to school, we feel how difficult these simple acts have become, and to let you know we are here for you.

Please know that if you are experiencing strong feelings that feel out of the ordinary and seem to last – numbness, sadness, anger, fear, grief – that this is a normal reaction to not-at-all normal circumstances.

Please know that as a community​ health center, we are here to listen. We care deeply about your health and well-being and want you to know you can come to us for support.

Talk to your Family Medicine provider, your Behavioral Health provider, any of the caring professionals at Harvard Street, and keep talking to us. We cannot solve the problems of gun violence alone, but as a community, we pledge to support and stand with you until we can all feel well and safe.