ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Discussing violent events that are happening nationally with your kids can be tough. However, experts believe it’s important to give children an opportunity to ask questions and express their feelings.

A local therapist says every kid will process what’s happening differently. He describes it as fight or flight, which can be influenced by past experiences.

“We can have trauma directly happening to us or we can have trauma vicariously, we hear about it, see it on TV,” says Kevin Polky, a licensed clinical social worker.

Polky is also the founder and executive director of KP Counseling, who previously worked in a school and researched school shootings during the Columbine era. He says recent mass shootings, like the one in Uvalde, Texas, can be traumatizing for kids.

Polky says, “Just the idea that ‘I’m going to school to learn, I’m going to school to be with my friends.’ We as parents, we as students consider it to be a safe place. Specifically safe from a shooter coming in.”

The experience can be just as scary for parents, according to Polky. But he urges parents to not show their fear, instead reassure their child because they’ll reflect your reaction as a parent.

“So we know this regarding other issues that have happened in the last couple of years with COVID, and with political unrests and things like that. Our children have a tendency to mirror back to us or mirror out to us what our response is,” Polky says.

Polky explains that although safety protocols like active shooter drills may not be ideal for young people to experience, its necessary and there for a reason.

“I know that as a general rule we ask, ‘why do my children or students have to go through this?’ Same reasons we have to do fire drills. We need to know what to do when something happens. We hope it never happens, but we need to know what to do,” he says.

Polky reminds us that those drills are put in place to prepare, not scare. He adds initially when something like this happens, people are either too scared to leave their house or so naïve that they stop being aware of your surroundings, but you need a balance of both.