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Utah parents, teachers can’t help but feel anxiety in wake of Texas school shooting

A row of lockers in a Utah school.
Brian Albers
Experts say it can be difficult for kids to process their emotions after a major disaster, but it’s important they have space to talk through the feelings they have.

Anxiety, fear and sadness are just some of the emotions students, parents and teachers feel after Tuesday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas.

For Draper parent Chad Smith, it’s been a mix of anger and desperation. The event is tragic and horrific, but he said it’s not surprising. The U.S. is seemingly the only major country in the world where school shootings happen regularly, he said, yet it’s taken little to no meaningful action on gun violence.

Knowing that he’s not quite sure how to talk about it with his two kids.

“I feel like most Americans want just a few simple common-sense regulations on firearms,” he said. “But sadly, money speaks louder than the voice of our dead children and their teachers. It's not a great compelling message to my kids to say, ‘Shame on us as a nation.’ But that's what I feel like saying.”

At Rose Park Elementary, third grade teacher Cara Cerise said her students showed up wanting to talk about the shooting. They had questions and she gave them the space to express what they felt. She also tried to assure them their teachers would do everything possible to keep them safe.

It was also the day of the school talent show. Cerise was the emcee. It was difficult to put on a happy face in front of the entire school she said, but it was also a welcome distraction.

“As I watched the students, I felt both such a sense of joy and pride, but also this really profound sadness and rage that any one of those students on stage could have been the child of these families in Texas,” she said.

Dénia-Maria Ollerton, the supervisor for the SafeUT Crisis Chat and Tip Line, said it is often difficult for people to process their emotions after a major disaster. But it’s important to talk through the feelings they have as well as limit screen time as much as possible.

“There's just so much news that's available — so many images, so many videos,” she said. “It can be informational at first, but then quickly get to be overwhelming and very saddening.”

The Huntsman Mental Health Institute has a guide for how to start conversations with kids after a school threat. Ollerton said SafeUT can also be a resource, both for kids to speak with a licensed counselor and to report anything that may be of concern.

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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