Local parents, child psychologist weigh in on best ways to talk to kids about active shooters

Posted at 6:03 PM, Feb 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-16 18:03:30-05

Tragedies like mass shootings have become all too common and parents often dread the conversations that follow. 

But two parents and a child psychologist who News 5 spoke to Friday all have the same message. 

That message is: talk to your children. 

Experts say no matter how you think kids will react to tragedy, it's important to have those conversations. 

"She’s been trained on how to respond to an active shooter since she was 2 years old," said Sabine Gerhardt. 

Gerhardt has active shooter training and she wants her 9-year-old daughter to be as prepared as possible. 

"We didn’t present it in a 'hey, you are about to get murdered' kind of way, but more like 'hey let’s talk about safety,'" she said. "If somebody shows up with a gun what would you do? Where would you go? Who would you tell?"

Melanie Grandberry, on the other hand, waited until her four kids were well into high school to talk about school shootings. 

"We talked about just being safe and being aware of your surroundings," said Grandberry. 

MetroHealth Medical Center Child Psychologist Dr. Lisa Ramirez Shah says both of these parents have the right idea—you can’t ignore the tragedy. 

"It’s really important that we don’t try to scoot things under the rug because kids might be worried about things and they might not have the opportunity to talk about it," said Dr. Ramirez Shah. 

With Pre-K and Kindergarten, Dr. Ramirez Shah says keep it simple. Use language like 'a bad man hurt people.'

When they get a little older, 8 or 9 years old, it’s even ok to ask them for their opinions. 

"Startup by asking them maybe if they’ve heard about what happened in Florida at the school in Florida, what they think about it and what that allows for is for them to actually guide you in that conversation," the doctor said. 

Gerhardt says she’s pleased to see her peers speaking up.

"I have to say, a couple years ago, I was one of the few parents talking to my kid about this, now almost all the parents I know are talking to their kids about this," said Gerhardt. 

And that’s something Granberry says she’s already dreading with her grandson 

"You don’t want to traumatize him, then he’s not going to want to go to kindergarten, so how do you do that? How do you have a discussion with a kindergartner?" Granberry asked.