It was a somber start to "Michael and Maddie" on Wednesday as we attempted to put into words the heartbreak we felt after learning about the devastating shooting in Uvalde, Texas. It is rare for Michael and me to be at a loss for words, but this was one of those moments that rendered us speechless.

“As a parent, it makes you feel so helpless,” said Michael. “You don’t even know how to talk to your kids about these things.”

Speaking with Autumn Prior

We decided to call upon the expertise of Autumn Prior, a New Bedford therapist, who gave us some sage advice on how to approach this emotional conversation with our children.

“My favorite thing to tell parents, and what I do myself as a parent, is I like to first ask what they know,” said Prior. “You start with them and where they are at, and then they feel like they have a voice, and you’re ready to listen.”

Starting on the same page avoids overwhelming the child and saves room to tackle possible misinformation or to simply vent.

Should We Not Say Anything to Our Kids?

Michael got candid with Autumn and questioned whether a conversation with our kids is even necessary.

“If I don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist, if I don’t watch the news, it’s not really happening,” he said. “In my house, we’re going to be normal here.”

Prior responded: “If the kids have been exposed to the information, then I would. You don’t want the kid to run off with incorrect information or hold on to this burden. The most important goal of any conversation with a kid is not just what happens at that moment, but to give the kid the idea that this is something that is OK to talk about.”

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Working through a crisis is a process, and Prior said she believes it’s important to make children feel comfortable in knowing that it’s OK to have tough conversations, and looking to adults in their lives for answers will be met with openness and clarity.

Knowing What Your Child Requires Is Most Important

However, Prior added that if the child is young and has not been exposed to the information, there is no sense in traumatizing the child by opening that conversation.

Children should not have to internalize their emotions, or feel like they have to process this on their own. It’s OK to be sad, especially with incidents like the most recent in Texas. Hopefully, the more conversations we have, the more concrete solutions will start to take shape.

To hear Prior’s entire take on how to approach this tough topic with your family, listen here.

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