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Phoenix psychologist explains how to discuss mass shootings with kids

Family members of slain mass shooting victim Thomas "TJ" McNichols, from left, Donna Johnson, aunt, and sisters Jamila and Finesse McNichols, mourn beside a memorial near the scene of the crime, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

PHOENIX — On the heels of two deadly mass shootings over the weekend, many Valley schools are getting back to regular session this week.

Dr. Melissa Estavillo with Biltmore Psychology in Phoenix told KTAR News 92.3 FM that the recent events are something parents should address with their kids as they head back to school, albeit carefully.

“It needs to be age-appropriate. Giving too much information can cause a lot of anxiety and fear, and that’s not the goal,” Estavillo said.

She said violence is one of the facts of life that parents don’t have the luxury of not talking about.

Estavillo encouraged keeping details as simple as possible when talking to young children.

For example, she said when talking about a school drill, parents can say: “This is something we have to do for safety … It’s not something you need to worry about, but it is something we need to prepare for.”

When it comes to talking to older children about the threat mass shootings pose to schools, Estavillo said it’s a good idea to advise them to always be aware of their surroundings.

“We don’t want to be hypervigilant where we are overly looking at the environment, but … (being) aware of our surroundings just an important life skill to have for safety in general,” Estavillo added.

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