INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The shooting death of 12-year-old Day’Shawn Bills in Indianapolis last week reignited conversations about the rise in gun violence throughout the city.
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These conversations can be difficult, especially when it comes to talking to kids. News 8 spoke with Jenny Voelker, a licensed mental health counselor at Community Health Network, about how you can talk to your kids about gun violence.
Don’t ignore the conversation
“Kids take the lead from their parents or the adults around them,” Voelker said. “So, if the adults around them aren’t talking about it or if the kids feel like they can’t ask questions, they are going to do one of two things: find the information somewhere else or fill in the blanks.”
This is dangerous territory for a child, she says. When children get information from outside sources or fill in the blanks, they tend to create a much scarier narrative than what’s really happening.
Go to them first
Instead of assuming their knowledge of the situation or coming to them with factual information, Voelker recommends asking questions. This might include “have you heard about this?” or “what do you know?” Gaining a sense of their understanding first can help guide the conversation. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and be sure to empathize. This is key to creating an open space for your kids to come to you and share their concerns.
Assure your kids you’re there to keep them safe
“The underlying message of letting kids know what adults are doing to keep them safe as much as possible is important,” says Voelker. “Just being able to say: One of the things that is really important to me as your mom is to make sure I keep you safe.”
The same goes for when your child is at school. Reassure them that their teachers, the principal and coaches are doing things to keep them safe as well. Then you can talk about what those things are together.