Psychologist offers advice on talking to kids about gun violence after Kent Co. shooting


    Psychologist offers advice on talking to kids about gun violence after Kent Co. shooting. (WWMT/Clayton Springer)

    Four people shot to death in northern Kent County on Monday and two are being mourned by students, staff, teachers and community members within Tri-County Area Schools.

    Tri-County Area Schools Superintendent Allen Cummins notified parents in a letter that a first grade and third grade girl, who are sisters, were victims in Monday's shooting. When shootings occur, parents have to figure how to talk about violence, and in this case, what to say when children are victims.

    "Every once in awhile something happens beyond what we can make sense out of," said Dr. Larry Beers, licensed Psychologist and licensed Professional Counselor at Child and Family Psychological Services in Kalamazoo.

    Cummins included a letter to parents about how to help children deal with grief, and announced grief counselors will be available to students and staff at all district schools.

    Beers, who works with adults and children, said there wasn't only one way to deal with these tragedies with children.

    "As far as kids goes, the key thing you have to do is make them feel safe, even though they may not feel safe after something like this happens," Beers said.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding the topic with children until they reach 8-years-old, but experts said it depends on the child.

    "Sometimes kids aren't ready to talk about this right away. If you push them, more harm than good could come from it," Beers said.

    Beers said parents should listen to their child, provide a sense of safety, and most importantly be honest.

    "These children died, they were shot, this was terrible, but the other thing to do is to reassure them to say that hey, this is really rare that this happened and its terrible and your feelings are understandable if you're sad about it and scared," Beers said.

    Beers said it's okay for adults to show they own vulnerability.

    "It's okay if the kids see the adults struggling and see, 'Hey, I'm having a rough time with this too, I really feel sad,'" Beers said.

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