GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After six victims were killed in a school shooting in Nashville, a mental health expert is reminding parents about how important it is to create space for kids to talk about it.
Kari Schulte, clinical supervisor at Wedgwood Christian Services, said parents should make an effort to be available for their kids and to create space for them to talk through hard things.
“Let your kids know that you are available by communicating that to them. Kids don’t know what they don’t know, so it’s up to you to create space and provide a space for them to be safe,” Schulte said.
Kids who are on social media are likely already aware of what happened. Younger children in elementary school might not be — but if you don’t talk to your kid about it, someone else probably will, Schulte said. She said talking to your child about what happened first will allow you to shape the narrative and help them process it.
“Being open and honest with your kids is the number one thing that you can do for them: making your home and your relationship with them the safest place and the safest person that they can go to, by creating open lines of dialogue, by allowing them to ask questions, by checking in with them,” Schulte said.
Parents should watch for changes in their child’s behavior, like changes in sleep, changes in appetite, slipping grades and a lack of interest in things the child usually enjoys. Schulte suggested talking to other adults in their life, like coaches, teachers and youth pastors.
“You know when you need to intervene,” she said. “It’s always a good idea to involve adults who know your child into the conversation too.”
Schulte also said it’s never too early to involve a professional. Wedgwood has immediate openings for outpatient therapy, and parents can call to discuss what that may look like.
“If you’re kind of questioning it, make the phone call,” she said.
As you help your kids work through it, it’s also important to be aware of how you are doing, and to get help if you need it.
“I think the biggest message is there is hope and there is good in the world, and that hope and that good can start with you and it can start with your kids,” Schulte said. “Teaching kids how to reach out, how to be a helper, how to love the person that’s right next to them and just making change in your immediate circle, it goes so far.”