After the shooting at a Florida High school on February 14, many parents, students and teachers in Western Montana are struggling with how to cope or help others deal with this tragedy.
Communication is a significant topic of conversation among professionals and parents after the school shooting that left 17 dead.
"We want to really listen, listen and listen some more," said Dr. Robert Velin, a neuropsychologist. "Now, having said that, we also want to be honest because a lot of these things don't make sense and it's important for them to see that we can struggle with this and we can provide honest answers. And sometimes those answers are even 'I don't know. I don't know why bad things happen in the world all of the time.'"
Dr. Velin said to look carefully for changes in behavior, mood, appetite or sleep habits in your kids. Ask yourself, are they withdrawing from activities they would usually love? Are they having nightmares? Are they anxious? And then ask yourself the same things. Adults will exhibit the same symptoms as children, but Dr. Velin said the only difference is they tend to hide it better.
Before starting the conversation, parents should do their research.
"Often times the most important thing a parent can do is also help a child learn to think more critically about the information that they are receiving to make sure that they can separate the true information from the misinformation, because that misinformation can be particularly frightening," said Dr. Velin.
He said that choosing a good time to talk can be extremely important. Dr. Velin says to select a time when you and your kids would communicate, like during breakfast, on the car ride home, after dinner, before bedtime or other times you would usually catch up. Make sure that when you do begin the conversation that you have a few hours to talk.
Talking to your kids may result in helping to prevent these horrific events from occurring in the future.
"We want kids to feel empowered to communicate about their fears or if they hear something that makes them fearful," he said. "We want them to know that there are resources, that there are people that they can go to, to both communicate about their fear but if they think something is going on we want them to know that they are empowered to pass that information. And that information can go into hands that can do something with it."
If you or someone you know are struggling to cope Dr. Velin encourages you to seek professional help.