UNMC therapist shares tips for talking with children about school violence

Dec 17, 2012

A UNMC therapist says a child’s age and maturity level should guide conversations with them about last week’s school shooting.

Friday’s shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school killed 20 children and six adults. Robin Zagurski, a therapist and social worker in UNMC’s Department of Psychiatry, says if young children have questions about the shootings, adults and parents should let those open up the conversation.

Zagurski says children preschool age and younger are too young for such discussions. But for children who’ve heard about the shooting, there should be some sort of answer.

Zagurski cautions not to jump to conclusions about a connection between mental illness and acts of violence. She says there isn’t enough research to indicate how many people who’ve committed acts of violence at the time of an incident such as the Newtown shooting were mentally ill. And she says not everyone who is mentally ill commits acts of violence.