PLANO, Texas(CBSDFW.COM) – With 12 innocent victims shot dead at a bar in California, the fourth mass shooting in the U.S. in the past two weeks, some say “we seem to be living a nightmarish loop of random, mass murder in places that should be safe.”
“Another one. It’s another one,” says Toya Harris of Dallas when asked how she reacted to the latest mass murder. “And it’s too often, and I got tears in my eyes.”
Still, the mother of two knew she would have more work to do at home.
“I use it as an opportunity to talk about gun safety,” said Harris. “What to do if you encounter a gun, what to do if you encounter a gunman. My children are 6 and 8 and I’m having this conversation with them… It breaks my heart. It breaks my heart.”
Harris knows her children will have questions and so does she: “My question would be,’what do I tell my children?'”
“You answer the question,” says Plano Clinical Psychologist Dr. Sylvia Gearing. “Children are brilliant and they are going to know if you are lying to them or not, so you answer the question.”
Even if the question is, ‘could it happen to me?’
When faced with the fact that such random acts of violence are no longer rare, Dr. Gearing says parents should first face their own fears. Then assure children that violence is possible but not probable.
Then empower them with education, providing specifics on all that exists in their world to keep them safe.
“All of our community that love these children as second parents are all there to protect them. That’s number one,” says Dr. Gearing. “Number two, children need to start gaining a sense of their own empowerment toward their protection.”
She says that means teaching kids to trust their instincts about people and situations and how to react is they feel threatened or in danger.
Meanwhile, there’s also work to do for the adults.
“When can we reach across the aisle and agree that this is an issue that we all have in common,” says Harris. “There are common sense steps that can be taken to hopefully reduce the amount of shootings.”
So turn off the constant loop of videotaped terror, suggests Dr. Gearing, just don’t turn away from talking about the tough issues on the minds of your children. And begin with facing your own fears about what’s happening, suggests Dr. Gearing.
“They’re going to pick up what you’re feeling. They’re going to know even though your words may say something else.”