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Helping children cope in the aftermath of Richneck Elementary School shooting

Parents who want to talk with their child about the shooting should only share what they feel comfortable sharing, according to Dr. Michele Davidson.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The circumstances surrounding the shooting at Richneck Elementary in Newport News are now leading to tough questions for parents and teachers.

Newport News police said a 6-year-old boy shot his teacher inside a first-grade classroom.

“For children, it is really hard to understand,” said Dr. Michele Davidson, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. “The most important thing is that parents kind of are grounded in where their thoughts and emotions are before they talk to their kids.”

According to Dr. Davidson, parents who want to talk with their child about the shooting should only share what they feel comfortable sharing.

“For children as young as 6, you want to have a one-lined story with as few details as possible,” Dr. Davidson said. “You want to keep it simple.”

Understandably, the information could scare children. Dr. Davidson said parents want to remind their kids of all the safety steps in place for them at school and home.

“Want to make sure to reiterate to them that they are safe, that you are going to take care of them, that the school is going to take care of them,” Dr. Davidson said. “That there are policies in place, there are active shooter drills, there are safety parameters around the school that this is very unusual.”

She said taking action to control the things children can change helps them cope with a situation.

“It is important to tell them that they can help be part of the solution by telling an adult if they suspect something is unusual at school,” Dr. Davidson said. “Promoting safety at school, talking to peers, working with their teachers and counselors.”

Dr. Davidson said parents should also look for any behavior changes in their child that might point to the need for extra help.

“They are really clingy all the sudden, they are really withdrawn,” Dr. Davidson said. “Whether they are having issues with sleep, nightmares, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep. And whether or not they are expressing fear, crying, telling you they are afraid.”

And she urges parents and teachers to also monitor their own mental health.

“If teachers find themselves not being able to concentrate, not being able to focus, being very anxious, not sleeping well, things like that,” Dr. Davidson said. “[It] may be a sign they need to talk to someone and that might be helpful.”

Richneck Elementary school is closed all this week. The school’s principal sent a letter to parents saying this is to give students and families more time to heal.

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