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Twelve people are dead. How do you talk to children about the Virginia Beach Municipal Center shooting?

Discussing tragedy with children can be difficult. Something as incomprehensible as the shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center can be overwhelming.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — As most people try to wrap their minds around what happened at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on May 31, parents, in particular, face the challenge of helping young minds understand it.

Superintendent Aaron Spence immediately recognized the effect that families and any member of the Virginia Beach City Public Schools community might feel as a result of the mass shooting in the municipal center's Building 2.

Twelve people died. Others were hurt.

Spence sent a message to members of the school community. As part of his message, the superintendent wrote:

I am deeply affected by this senseless tragedy, as I imagine you are, and I want to assure you that we are working closely with our friends within the City of Virginia Beach to assist in every way possible.

Knowing that students likely would be touched by the shooting and have questions about it, Spence suggested resources to help guide conversations with children.

The first was from the National Education Association (NEA). The piece, School Shootings and Other Traumatic Events: How To Talk To Students, recommends the following: 

  • Reassure children that they are safe. 
  • Create time to listen and be available to talk. 
  • Review school safety procedures. 
  • Observe children’s emotional state. 
  • Limit media exposure. 
  • Maintain a normal routine. 

A second resource he noted was from the American Psychological Association entitled Helping Your Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting.

 The NEA listed some additional resources that parents could find helpful in discussing any trauma or tragedy with their children:

Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters released the following recoursed for parents on ways to talk with children about mass shootings:

CHDK also offered a resource for educators on how to talk with children about events like this:

In Spence's note to people in VBCPS, he let families know that counselors would be available on Monday, June 3, and throughout the week to talk with anyone who needed support.

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