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Helping Kids Navigate the Tragedy of the Super Bowl Parade Shootings


For all of us, the horrific events that took place after the Chiefs parade and rally at Union Station hit too close to home. We know that many families were directly impacted by these events, especially children who were at the parade and witnessed terrifying things. Our city has been through a trauma. 

It’s never easy to talk about senseless violence with our kids. With your guidance, they can find a safe space to process what’s happened. Children’s Mercy wants to help. Here you'll find:

  • Key points to know
  • When to seek help immediately
  • How parents and caregivers can help
  • What you can do next
  • What to watch for 

Key points to know

Watch for changes in your child 

Signs of post-traumatic stress disorder include: 

  • Avoiding people, places or things that bring back memories. 
  • Panic symptoms (racing heart, rapid breathing) when not in danger. 
  • Feelings of shame, sadness or anger. 
  • Nightmares or memories of the scary event when they are trying not to think about it. 

How you can help 

You know your child best. Most children find it helpful if you: 

  • Listen to them. 
  • Answer questions briefly and honestly. 
  • Let them know they are safe and you are there for them. 
  • Seek additional support if needed. 

How parents and caregivers can help

Put your own oxygen mask on first

After an event like this, you are likely experiencing all sorts of emotions: shock, sadness, anger, frustration, helplessness and more. Give yourself time to process your own reactions, by yourself or with a trusted friend or counselor. By creating space for yourself, you will be better able to help your kids express their feelings without mixing them up with your own.

Ask questions before giving answers 

Just as you have an initial reaction when you learn about something horrible happening, kids will have their own reactions, too. This is especially true for kids who were at the parade or watching the live coverage. They may share some of your thoughts and feelings, or they may have completely different concerns. Before you jump in with information and advice, start by asking what they have heard. Then, ask them if they have any questions. The more listening you do, the better.

Let your child know they are safe

Unexpected, traumatic events can cause a child to worry and be scared. It is common for children to think something bad may happen to them following a scary event. Let them know you are there for them. They will be comforted by extra hugs and extra time spent
Let them know that you and safety officials are working to keep them safe and secure. Older kids may express distress that shootings keep happening, and it’s reasonable to acknowledge they have reason to be frustrated. If appropriate, make a safety plan together as a family.

Consider what they need 

Every kid is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to conversations about traumatic events. You, as their parent or caregiver, know them best, and can take into consideration things that will affect how they process difficult news.

Age and developmental level
Younger children usually need less detail when you discuss the event. Keep it brief, be clear and honest and stay open to their questions. School-aged kids and teens will probably want more information. Generally speaking, you can tell them what happened and where, and what is being done to deal with the situation.  

No matter what age the child is, it is important to help them feel safe, validate their feelings and let them know they can come to you with concerns. 

Just as there is no one right way to talk to kids about difficult news, there is no right way for them to react to that news. Normal responses range from worrying aloud, to staying quiet, to appearing indifferent and everything in between. Accept their emotions and note any changes in behavior over time. 

Proximity to the traumatic event
There’s no question that this tragedy hit close to home – in the heart of our community, on a day that was supposed to be about celebration and joy. If your family was at the event or connected to the victims, your children may need greater support over a longer period of time. Stay connected and aware of  how your child processes grief or trauma over time. Sometimes they just need someone to sit with them in the discomfort.

Learn more about caring for children who have experienced trauma.

Intellectual and developmental disabilities
Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities may react differently to news of a tragedy and may be comforted by different things than a neurotypical child. Think about what calms your child in other stressful situations and ask yourself if that approach might work in this instance.


What do I do next?

Limit exposure to disturbing media 

It is natural that many people engage in news coverage after such an impactful tragedy, sometimes for hours on end. Ideally, we want to protect kids from alarming images and videos online or on TV. But in this case, since so many kids either witnessed the event firsthand or on live TV during parade coverage, it may be more difficult. Do your best to provide information about what occurred without the extra images and commentary on the news. Try to limit your own consumption of these images and don’t watch them when kids are present. If your child sees an image that upsets them, listen to how it made them feel and be ready to talk about it. Consider monitoring electronics use closely after these events to prevent accidental exposure.

Promote their resilience

Help your kids communicate their emotions in whatever way comes naturally to them, whether through conversation, creative expression or another approach. Communicating about thoughts and feelings one time will not make everything okay. The more a child can feel safe and tell their story, the less anxious they may be when reminded of the trauma.

As much as you can, stick to routines you had prior to the event. Knowing what comes next and being able to prepare will reduce your child’s anxiety and worries. This consistency helps kids regain a sense of normalcy and we learned during the pandemic how critical it is to keep routine in place. If possible, give kids a chance to take action and help others. This gives them a positive focus and a healthy feeling of control. 

Read, watch and listen together 

Stories can help children process traumatic or scary events in an accessible way.

Reassure – but not too much 

When our kids are worried, we want to reassure them – and we should. The challenge is to find the right balance of checking in and providing reassurance, but not to overdo it and accidentally increase their worry. Too much reassurance can send the message that they should be worried when they are not. Similarly, over-preparing for a disaster or safety event can be frightening for children.

What to watch for

When a child’s reactions to trauma persist
after a few weeks, they may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  It’s natural to hope that things will be fine, and to avoid seeking help. But early intervention is always better, so seek care if you are unsure. C
onsider talking to a health care professional if your child’s reactions continue for more than 2 to 4 weeks after the event, worsen over time, or affect their usual routines.

Common Symptoms of PTSD

  • Avoiding people, places or things that bring back memories. 
  • Panic symptoms (heart palpitations, rapid breathing) when not in danger. 
  • Withdrawal from family or peers. 
  • Changes in appearance, not taking care of personal hygiene. 
  • Feeling shame or blame – “if only” thoughts. 
  • Feeling sad. 
  • Increased anger responses. 
  • Nightmares. 
  • Memories of the scary event even when they are trying not to think about it. 
  • Safety concerns – thoughts or threats of self-harm or suicide. 
  • Trouble with memory – not remembering directions from one homework page to the next. May not remember parts of the trauma. 
  • Teens may exhibit risk-taking behaviors – using drugs or alcohol, breaking curfew. 
  • Any other symptoms that interfere with daily activities. 

Find help locally

  • Your child’s pediatrician or current mental health professional, if they have one. 
  • The 988 Crisis Line is available 24/7. Anyone, anywhere can call, text or chat to access trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also call, text or chat 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
  • A mental health professional (if you have health insurance, call your insurance company for a list of resources in your area). 
  • Your local community mental health center.  
  • A school counselor or social worker. 

Additional resources

Find helpful resources online:

A photo of a yellow Children's Mercy ambulance

Give to the emergency fund

During the Championship Super Bowl Parade in Kansas City, we experienced a horrible tragedy and nine children with gunshot wounds were taken to Children’s Mercy. The outpouring of support for these families and for our Children’s Mercy Emergency Response Team has been awe-inspiring. If you wish to make a donation or send an inspirational message, it will directly benefit young patients and their families as well as our front-line staff providing world-class clinical care and mental health support during times of tragedy such as this one. 

Donations can be made online or by calling Children's Mercy at 1 (833) KC-GIVES / 1 (833) 524-4837.

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