El Paso

How schools, parents approach children about tragedies

Children and tragedies

EL PASO, Texas - Following the deadly shooting in Las Vegas, parents and schools are left to discuss and console children about mass shootings and violence.

On Sunday, 58 people were killed and 515 people were injured when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire during the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas.

ABC-7 spoke with guidance counselors at EPISD and YISD this afternoon, both districts have a similar approach to tragedies.They tell ABC-7 students often go to their parents and teachers with questions about incidents like these. Often times, a student's biggest concern is their own safety-- they want to know if they're safe at home, at the movies, at school.

"On the way to school, there was a mention of it on the radio and I just said hey have you talked about it in school, and they both just aid yea, a lot of people died," one parent told ABC-7.

While school districts cannot inject their own personal beliefs, they approach it from a neutral standpoint by ensuring their safety.

"What we want to do is answer the question directly, not give them a series of information, pieces, or background, because most kids are interested in, is my family safe?" Janise Pries, Director of Guidance and Counseling at YISD said.

Manuel Castruitas, Director of Guidance Services tells ABC-7 it's also important to be optimistic.

"We have to be very cognizant of our own emotional state, so a great level of self-awareness, because if I'm anxious, uptight, jittery, and then I'm wanting to talk to my little one or adolescent, they're going to see right through it," Castruitas said.

Castruitas says they use what's called a "Psychological First Aid." It's something schools across the country learned after the deadly Sandy Hook shooting.

"Reminding them that emotional and physical safety because that's really one of the concerns children will have. Am I safe if I leave the house? Am I safe if I go to grandma's house?"

At school, teachers address a child's question from a neutral standpoint by reiterating school safety. At home, Castruitas says parents can simply listen to their child and connect them to normal social connections and activities.

"They can do it through art, drawing, poetry, journal writing," Castruitas said.

While every parent's approach will be different, Castruitas says it's important to be optimistic and let your child now they can carry on.

"We want to instill hope."

Common reactions to stress in children include change in appetite and sleep patterns and difficulties with concentration and memory.

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