SAN DIEGO — Following the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, parents are still trying to process the magnitude of the tragedy and how to talk to their young children about it.

Dana McNeil, a San Diego-based family and marital therapist, shared some guidance for those who need a place to start. And she says ignoring the topic won’t work.

“Not saying anything to the people that are asking questions — our little ones — it tells them they’re not important,” she told FOX 5.

Instead, McNeil suggests parents create a safe space to allow kids to voice any fears and ask any questions.

”We want to say, ‘Hey, how are you feeling? How are you doing with it? What are you scared about? What do you need? What are you worried about?” she continued. “‘I may not have all the answers but I am here, I love you, and we’ll figure it out.’”

In an effort to help students and parents cope, the San Diego Office of Education sent all 42 school districts in the county the latest information and resources on school safety and active shooter procedures, plus access to mental health providers.

The most important thing to remember is we all grieve and process differently and that needs to be honored, McNeil says.

“Some of us can jump right in and get back into the world; others might need a couple of days to grieve the loss of what we thought the world was like,” the therapist said.

McNeil recommends being ready to cover difficult topics, making sure your own emotions are in check so you don’t create anxiety in your kids. You can also:

  • Help them express themselves through art or writing
  • Make sure they don’t watch the news on repeat
  • Teach them to trust their gut feelings
  • Instead of focusing on the victims or “bad guy,” find heroes that came in to help