Expert shares advice on how to talk to your kids about deadly school shootings

Shooting at school in Parkland, Florida

OCONOMOWOC -- Trying to explain the Parkland, Florida school shooting to your kids might be difficult. FOX6 sat down with an expert who shared some advice on how to break the ice.

"Parents might be anxious and frightened themselves," said Dr. Beth Johnson, Lakefront Wellness Center director.

Dr. Johnson is a clinical psychologist with 25 years of experience.

Lakefront Wellness Center

Dr. Beth Johnson

"'Are you OK?' is a great place to start. 'Can you tell me about it?' But don't flood them with 10,000 questions. Give them plenty of room to speak, and time to speak," said Dr. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson says how you speak with your kids will depend on how old they are, and is specific to the child.

"For example, take a highly-sensitive child who might be more fearful, and the parent, with good intentions, begins to talk about the school shooting and as they talk and explain, the child might become more and more frightened," Dr. Johnson said.

Dr. Johnson says it's safe to follow your child's lead.

"If the child comes and asks the question, my rule of thumb is to answer the question as honestly as you can without providing too much graphic detail, and try to be reassuring," said Dr. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson also encourages parents to inspire kids not to be afraid of going to school.

"'We're OK. We're a long way away from that. I understand you're afraid, but we can't live our life waiting for something bad to happen,'" Dr. Johnson said.

If you need help talking with your child, or coping with the Parkland, Florida, shooting -- Dr. Johnson suggests reaching out to your local mental health center.

Florida school shooting