Talking to kids about school safety

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Over just two days in December, three schools in Wisconsin experienced gun-related incidents.

In Waukesha on Monday, a 17-year-old student was shot and injured by police after he pulled a handgun on them at Waukesha South High School. The same day, a second Waukesha school was put on lockdown after a report of a student with a gun.

On Tuesday morning, a 16-year-old Oshkosh West High School student stabbed a school resource officer before the officer shot the teen once.

With these three frightening incidents in just two days, students might be feeling anxious about their safety at school, leaving parents wondering how to reassure their kids.

Dr. Marcia Slattery, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, said the first step is just listening. Slattery said parents should let their kids explain what's scaring them because talking about it can itself be therapeutic for kids.

Slattery also said she has seen more kids worried about being safe at school, and the recent incidents in Waukesha and Oshkosh may be even scarier because they happened so close to home.

"It's still that uncertainty, could it happen? Which is the hardest thing," Slattery said.

Slattery recommended parents remind their children that there are rules and procedures already in place to keep them safe.

"At home, we have the doors locked, we check everything that it's safe, we always are here for you, all the things that we go through and we review that with kids. At school, it's very similar, the school staff are going to go through them with what our rules are," she said.

Slattery added that just spending time talking about together as a family can help reduce kids' fears.

"That sense of being together will decrease anxiety immensely. It increases more when we're alone, it increases when we're feeling more isolated and a little more vulnerable, and we're not feeling ready. So how you address that, you try to review the things that we've done in order to be ready in situations like this," she explained.

Despite incidents like this happening more often, Slattery said she is encouraged. She has seen kids looking out for each other and being more connected, as well as knowing where to go if they see something wrong.