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I am not a parent, but am asking this for a good friend. He has a 6-year-old daughter who was in the attached elementary school during a recent high school shooting. I don't think she saw anyone get killed, but she was in the building when it happened, and saw the aftermath with the other students.

She's very upset and confused, and he doesn't know what to do. She keeps asking "why", and he doesn't know how to answer. He's always told her "school is safe" and "school is good for you", and now he feels like he's lied to her. She doesn't want to go back to school, and he doesn't want to make her.

What should he do? I know everyone's answer will be "hire a therapist", but what about in the short-term? And what if he can't afford one?

  • Consider that there are high school alternative programs that don't cost money. They're like private schools but typically enrolled students tend to be ones struggling or for whatever other reason don't cope well with the standard structure. I went to one of those and graduated a year early. – Kai Qing May 8 at 23:04
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    Honestly, while hypothetical situations are acceptable questions, this one is too sensational, and too many unknowns (What about...? What if...?) exist for a good answer pertinent to that child's situation. – anongoodnurse May 9 at 13:11
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    Lobby your government or move to a country that doesn't have such rampant terrorism. – Ian MacDonald May 9 at 16:43
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Almost all (if not all) schools which experience a shooting like the one you described offer almost immediate counseling services to any student requesting them free of charge, even if they need to bring professionals in from outside. I suggest that the parent start there.

Mental illness is real, and there's no reason not to explain that the shooter was gravely mentally ill, and the illness expressed itself in the desire to do damage to others. While headlines are sensational, statistics might help understand the vanishingly small chance that she in particular will be harmed this way. Taking your cues from the child through active observation and listening is important. For problematic situations (anxiety, etc.), that's what the counselor is for.

Other possibilities (depending on the child's reaction to the situation) include changing schools/homeschooling. It all boils down to, "it depends". In addition to that, there are a lot of resources on the internet that cover this topic, which don't need to be recreated here.

School Shootings and Other Traumatic Events: How To Talk To Students
Talking to Children about the Shooting
How To Talk With Kids About Terrible Things

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