Hundreds of schools across Denver and the Front Range are closed today due to a manhunt for an 18-year-old woman who is considered armed and dangerous.
For parents with primary school-aged children, it may be difficult to know what sort of language to use when explaining why school is closed. Depending on the maturity level of the child, parents must decide whether to take a more light-hearted approach or speak on a deeper level.
We reached out to Dr. Jennifer Hagman in the Children’s Hospital Psychiatric & Behavioral Health center and she had several tips:
- It’s like an airline “put your mask on first”, calm yourself down and check yourself and your mental health before talking to your kids.
- Use this opportunity to do something fun and healthy with your family today. Some kids may want to be around friends, or do something fun like watch a movie or go bowling.
- Check in with your child. Ask how they’re feeling, Dr. Hagman suggests it’s almost like talking about sex and babies, gauge how much your kids want to know and then only answer questions they ask. Don’t lie, remember they will be going back to school tomorrow and depending on the age may hear about it at school.
- If you have children with anxiety issues, try to find ways to calm them down. Stay away from TV and computer reports (this means parents as well) and try to keep the anxiety to a minimum. Practice some deep breathing exercises.
- If your child is exhibiting signs of anxiety, reach out to your pediatrician as well as school counselors. The schools are being given information on how to handle this with kids this week, so they will know how to help your child.
Dr. Hagman also pointed out that parents should take comfort in knowing that there are people looking out for our kids, and doing their best to protect them, and that they take safety issues seriously.
LeAnne Downing, Denver Parent writer and parenting expert also suggested that “It’s important for parents to speak in a way that does not frighten their children, so that they’re not scared to go to school the next day because the kids will certainly be talking about what happened when they return; it’s important to give them a good perspective about a dangerous person who is hurting and needs help.”
She added, “To explain this, parents can say, ‘Our police have found something that could be unsafe for schools, so there’s no school today until they can take care of it. This is good because it means we all will stay safe.’”
For information on the shooter, please contact the Denver FBI or local authorities: Tip Line: 303-630-6227. Media Line: 303-630-6427.
We will continue to update this article through out the day with resources for you and your family.