Talking Tragedy: How to answer the tough questions with your kids


TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A Florida teen has been charged with murder after the nation’s deadliest school shooting in five years. Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer ordered flags be flown at half-mast to honor the 17 victims of the shooting.

While people mourn, parents across the country are considering what to tell their children about the attack.

Julie Hochstedler has trained her daycare kids to know that her whistle means stop what you’re doing, but her whistle can’t protect them from learning about national tragedies.

“It just gets scarier and scarier and you have to try harder to protect them,” said Hochstedler. “You want them to be aware that there are bad things that go on around them, but at the same time you don’t want it to hinder them and have them be afraid everywhere they go.”

Hochstedler has six children and nine grandchildren, but she said the world was a different place when she was a first-time parent. She didn’t have to worry about talking to her kids about school shootings.

If you decide to talk with your kids about this or any national tragedy, the Mayo Clinic suggests choosing a time when you know your child will be willing to talk, like before dinner. While everyone has the right to parent their children as they like, the Mayo Clinic reminds parents that if they don’t talk to their kids about national tragedies, they may hear about it from someone else.

Allison Edgar said she tries to protect her kids, but she said they will often pick things up at school.

“My four-year-old doesn’t understand as much as like my eight-year-old does but with my eight-year old we tell her the truth but we don’t go into the gory details,” said Edgar.

The Mayo Clinic says this is the way to go. They suggest keeping the conversation basic and letting the child guide the talk by finding out what questions they have first.

“We just try to protect their innocence as long as possible and know that they’re as safe as we can keep them,” said Edgar.

A spokesperson for Topeka Public Schools told KSNT News that some schools have sent home information about how to talk to kids about tragedy. The district said they do have guidance counselors on alert for kids who may need additional support.

Click here for more information from the Mayo Clinic.

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