How do you explain Las Vegas shooting to kids?

Parents, we might be glued to watching the news coverage of what happened late Sunday night in Las Vegas, but we need to be careful about who is watching with us and how we explain it.

People hug and cry outside the Thomas & Mack Center after a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival early Monday morning in Las Vegas. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

“It really depends on the developmental level of the kids,” says Dr. Jane Ripperger-Suhler, a child psychiatrist at Seton’s Texas Child Study Center. Consider how you think your child will take what they see on TV, she says. “I wouldn’t watch a lot with preschooler.”

For kids already in school, you can watch some with them, but be prepared to talk about it and answer their questions. You can ask things like: “What do you think about this?” “What questions do you have?” Gage if they want to talk about it, but, she says, “I wouldn’t force them to talk about this.”

Dr. Jane Ripperger-Suhler is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Texas Child Study Center.

Explain things in the simplest yet factual way you can. You could say “A man shot some people at a concert. I guess he was upset about something,” she says.

You can focus on how you are feeling, that you’re upset and that you also don’t understand why this happened, but be careful about how you are reacting. “If a parent swoons or becomes frantic, a child is going to do likewise.”

Most importantly, remind kids that they are safe; that you will keep them safe, and when they are at school, their teachers will keep them safe.

If your child seems to be fixated on what happened in Las Vegas, you could encourage them to draw, build something or act something out, if they don’t want to talk about it.

If they don’t seem to be able to move on after a few days, are afraid to go to school, are too scared to go to bed, are having physical symptoms of stress or behavior problems, get them help sooner rather than later, Ripperger-Suhler says.

Be especially aware if a child has experience a trauma before. Watching this scene on TV will not cause post-traumatic stress disorder, she says, but it can be more traumatic and disturbing to some kids.

If you and your children are thinking about going to Austin City Limits Festival this weekend or next weekend, they might be thinking about the shooting in Las Vegas and wondering if they should go. Ripperger-Suhler says it’s important to go about normal life.

If your child expresses some fear about it, reassure them that you will keep them safe, that these events have security measures to keep you safe.

Like at any event, make sure you have a plan such as a fixed meeting spot for reuniting if you get separated.

For those kids who are still worried about going, don’t try to force it. “If they don’t want to go, don’t make them go,” she says.