Local therapist suggests how to discuss mass shootings with young children

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SAN ANTONIO - The frequency of mass shootings raises concerns among some parents about the emotional effect on young children.

Fox San Antonio talked to a therapist about the conversation parents should have with their kids.

Finding the right thing to say to your child after they've been exposed to a violent event may not be the easiest thing to do; but experts agree not saying anything could have even more emotional consequences.

Mass shootings.

They're happening in churches, synagogues, schools, and just last night at a place where adults were out to have a good time.

They're called soft targets: places where people, often families gather with the expectation of feeling safe.

What's become the new normal could have emotional consequences on young children.

"They don't understand like what's going on and they think it can happen to them and they don't know how to protect themselves and so that creates anxiety and worry and fear of going to school," said Julie Strentzsch, PhD.

Dr. Julie Strentzsch is a therapist at Roy Maas' Youth Alternatives who says fear could develop into aggressive behavior.

"Kind of saying this is the way of the world so I'm going to eat or be eaten kind of mentality because you start to develop that as the environment you're living in," Strentzsch said.

Strentzsch says parents should first minimize exposure to crime and violence by using filters on televisions and digital devices.

"They don't have to have access to all the news feeds," Strentzsch said. "They don't have to have access to television 24/7, they don't have access to violent video games."

Next she says it's important to be careful about exposing children to our fears.

Keep adult conversations about headlines private, she says, because the little ones are listening.

"I just think we as the adults and leaders in our community have to get more mindful and thoughtful about that," Strentzsch said.

Finally Dr. Strentzsch says start the conversation about mass shootings by asking questions.

"Do you feel safe at home, do you feel safe at school, who are the people you feel safe with?"

She says parents should be honest but provide answers with just enough information to help them feel safe.

"Don't over tell or give too much information because that's when they get more anxious," Strentzsch said.

Experts say it's never too early to establish open communication in the home.

They say it could help later in life when tackling other tough topics.

Contact Julie Strentzsch at RMYA Counseling Center, 3103 West Ave, San Antonio , TX 78213. Dial (210) 340-7971, or email

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