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How to talk to your kids about schools threats and safety

12News talks with licensed counselor Katrina Harrell on how to conduct conversations on this critical topic of safety at school.

PHOENIX — A frightening sequence of events for students and teachers unfolded at Thompson Ranch Elementary School in El Mirage Friday morning.

El Mirage police said a man who appeared to have a handgun unsuccessfully attempted to gain access to the campus through an exterior door. The campus immediately went into lockdown and the man fled, never having gained access to the building. 

The suspect was later found and taken into custody, police said. No one was injured during the incident.

12News spoke with psychologist Katrina Harrell about how parents can have a talk with their kids about incidents involving school threats and security.

"With children going back to school, teachers going back to school, everyone's in fear," Harrell said. "The first thing that came to my mind was some clients who were already worried about going back to school who had discussed this prior to."

RELATED: Suspect who prompted El Mirage school lockdown is in custody. 3 parents arrested for trying to enter school while on lockdown

Harrell said this incident may cause fear in both young and older children so there are factors to consider when talking with your kids about this topic.

She said having a conversation might not be easy, so check yourself first.

"It's going to be important for us to address our own emotions, so if we're feeling anxious, if we're feeling overwhelmed about it, it's not the right time to have that conversation," she said.

But it's important to not avoid the conversation.

"Ask them how their day went, what they are aware of and I would ask them about if they have any concerns about being at school, returning back to school," she said.

A lot of uncertainty about the future can cause anxiety for everyone, it's important to calm any of those anxieties your kids might have by reassuring them.

"They've increased security in most school districts," Harrell said. "They need to feel safe, secure, in their environment."

Lastly, Harrell said to remember to give them a hug. 

"It gives them a reminder that they're safe. It also gives them a reminder that they're loved. They need to feel that," she said.

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