How do you talk to your children about gun violence and school shootings? How do you approach the topic of tragedy in America? What do you say when they don’t want to go to school, or just can’t handle it anymore? Parents across the country are asking themselves these same questions, and it’s one of the most heart wrenching aspects of this terrible time period in our country.
When a fourteen-year old kid walks into a classroom, open-carrying a military-grade assault rifle and kills his classmates, the whole country is left in shocked silence. The victims’ families mourn the loss of loved ones while wondering how there could have been preventative measures put into place to stop tragedy.
For those of us involved in education or have children ourselves, these events can be quite scary; imagining such a scenario happening at our child’s school. It may leave us wondering how we should talk to our kids about gun violence and school shootings.
Many of the school shootings have been carried out by children and teens themselves, who have easy access to guns and live in homes where guns are kept, or older kids and teens who get illegal possession of their parents’ guns. How do you explain gun violence and school shootings to your kids when it happens near you? What can we teach them about gun violence and school shootings so that they avoid it?
I don’t know what to say. I really don’t. It’s so difficult to process and digest events like the one today in Parkland, Florida. I can’t even imagine what the parents are going through as they come to grips with this tragedy. This is a parent’s nightmare, and my heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by what happened today. I wanted to write an article that might be helpful for parents who had questions about sharing information with their children about the tragedy in Florida and gun violence in general.
In the time between the 2018 and now, there have been more than 114 school shootings in America. That is 150 families mourning the loss of loved ones. It’s communities coming to grips with the fact that this threat could happen just about anywhere. It’s many American students who will never live the life they were supposed to because a gunman opened fire on their school campus.
We’ve been trying to reach a much-needed consensus on gun violence for years, but we’re still no closer to stopping gun violence in schools and other public spaces.
And so as a country, we are unfortunately forced to ask ourselves how and where we need to start broaching these conversations with our kids about gun violence and school shootings in the U.S.
Gun violence prevention shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but it is. We are facing a problem in our country and we can’t seem to find a solution. Gun violence is an act of targeting of innocent people and it’s easier to kill them than it is to motivate them and give them power. Through this article, I am going to show you why it is so important that kids and teens be educated on gun violence, how you can help fight gun violence, and what steps we can all take to reach a solution.
Why there’s a need to talk about these shootings?
It can be hard to talk to kids about social issues, but it is possible if we use the right words. As a parent and an elementary school teacher (and even a grandparent), I have had to help kids and their parents have these conversations. Though the issue of gun violence—and the protests for change that have followed since the Parkland, Florida shooting—are complicated, talking about them shouldn’t be. Here’s why these conversations are important.
These conversations are an important way to keep kids safe.
When it comes to school shootings, 93% of school shooters planned their attack in advance. And in four out of five school shootings the attacker told someone about their plans beforehand. For this reason, parents and educators need to teach kids to not only recognize the signs of an issue with a friend or a peer but also know who to talk to about their concerns.
Communicating with your children is important. That being said, you don’t want to speak down to them when it comes to basic safety or risk scaring them. However, you also don’t want to avoid the topic of gun violence. You need to introduce these conversations into your family culture and make sure your kids know how critical these conversations are.”
Despite the fact that guns are the leading cause of death among young people in America, guns are really hard to talk about. It’s hard to talk about because some people think it’s easier to just “shelter” your kids from the dangers of the world, but the reality is that there is no way to protect them from every possible danger or situation and by sheltering them you may actually be putting them at more risk.
One of the main things we need to do to protect children from gun violence is teach them how to recognize the signs of an issue and know when and how to talk about their concerns. When kids and teens have the tools to recognize the signs of an issue and feel comfortable talking about them with a trusted adult, Lives can be saved.
For instance, students, who know the signs of bullying, can speak up and have a positive impact on what happens within their school. Young people who are encouraged to intervene with someone they believe is contemplating suicide may be the one to make a difference. And students who witness violence, such as school shootings, can be affected for years to follow. When it comes to preventing school shootings, the adults in kids’ lives have a critical role to play. They are the first line of defense against gun violence and school shootings.
In the search for answers to combat gun violence and school shootings, I came across some surprising information about kids and school shootings. What I found was that children are often aware of signs that other students might be considering using a gun at school to hurt themselves or someone else. And when surveyed, many answered questionnaires saying they would tell an adult if they know another student at their school intends to commit gun violence. But in reality, they often don’t tell anyone. Or, if they did tell someone they would tell a teacher.
The conversations are so important because they are a life-saving opportunity. With the knowledge of what signs to look for—and what to do about it—kids and teens can play a part in preventing school shootings. Take an active role in these conversations, and you will be taking the first step in preventing gun violence and school shootings.
Educators, law enforcement officers and mental health experts on Friday reiterated the importance of having an open dialogue with children about gun violence. Now, a national study has showed how such dialogue can improve students’ attitudes toward specific actions that can help prevent such tragedies.
With the recent school shootings, there’s been a lot of talk among parents and educators on how to empower young people to speak up when they hear or see something that could be dangerous. If you’re looking for ways to engage your kids in a discussion, here’s what the experts say you should do.
Some tips for Adults to start the conversation with the Kids:
Parents whose children are young, and those who live in parts of the country with historically low rates of gun violence, might have less experience talking about gun violence with their kids. But conversations about guns are becoming increasingly important for all types of parents, as recent tragic events inspire more debate around the topic.
For a 12-year-old Kid, the game ‘Fortnite Battle Royale’ is a way to stay connected to his friends and blow off steam. For his parents — like other parents across the country who have watched the news coverage following the recent school shootings in Santa Fe, Texas and Parkland, Florida — it’s a reminder that they need to talk with their kids about gun violence.
Gun violence has tragically become an all-too familiar part of American life, so much so that one in ten children under the age of 18 now live in homes where they are worried that a gun could be fired by accident or intentionally. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), kids have a right to be involved in the national conversation around gun violence. “It’s been shown that kids as young as kindergarten get what gun violence is,” says AACAP” and feel it’s their responsibility not just to talk about it, but to come up with solutions.”
Make sure you are not Stressed about the topic
School shootings and gun violence are recurring themes in the news. When young people hear about it, they often find themselves filled with questions, fears, and other reactions. If you have kids at home, it’s important to talk about school shootings and gun violence with them before such a horrific event occurs near them or their friends.
The discussion about gun violence in schools isn’t best begun by diving right into the issue. While professional counsellors agree a conversation needs to take place in a calm, rational way, they agree these are not topics that should be rushed.
As a parent, there are times when you need to separate the emotional side of your brain from the logical side—especially if you’re trying to have a rational conversation with your kids about gun violence in the wake of a school shooting. Having this type of conversation can be frightening, especially if it comes on the heels of a tragedy such as mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
It’s important to examine your own feelings before having this conversation with your kid. Kids will pick up on your stress and anxiety and mirror it, making the situation more difficult. Be sure to take some time before you talk to your kids to deal with any issues you have with gun violence and school shootings, so you can talk about these issues in a calm and reassuring manner.
How you talk to your children about school shootings depends to a certain extent on the child’s age. Children from preschool through the second grade don’t really have any concept of death. They often think death is like sleep, and that we simply wake up again when we die. Older kids will have more concrete ideas about death and will be better able to grasp the notion that it is permanent.
Sometimes, parents don’t want to tell their children about their school shooting until they hear about it from someone else. Other times, a child may be the first to know because they saw it happen and got scared for their friends. A child’s reaction varies, but talking about it with them can make a big difference to how they feel and how upset they get about it. Giving your child simple rules for what is going on at school can help them understand and act on their own feelings.
As a parent, what are some things parents need to address with their kids? First off, it’s important to know the statistics and what age group is most at risk of being involved in a shooting. If your child is old enough to ask about the bigger picture — like why there are so many school shootings — remind them that adults look at this from a different view.
Experts recommend that parents discuss gun violence with their children in concrete terms. For example, you might tell your child if your friend brings a gun to school, here is what you need to know. Give them simple rules like don't touch it and tell an adult right away. You also could reinforce safety rules with young children by saying bad guys have scary toys and that is why we don't play with them.
Listen and Interact with your Child
School shootings are never an easy topic to approach. Rather than feeling pressured to have a specific conversation, Dr. Masi and Dr. Moffatt suggest participating in natural discussions on the subject in both home and school environments. The key is to let your kids guide the discussion, while you follow their lead.
One of the best ways to get your kids talking about these difficult topics is to keep the conversation focused on them. If they tell you they saw a terrible accident that happened while they were in school, by all means ask what happened and how they felt as it unfolded. Then, ask them what they would do if a similar situation unfolded at their school.
Keeping in mind that Dr. Moffatt has found that parents are generally more successful at talking to their children about uncomfortable social issues when they use a direct approach, while avoiding jargon and simplistic statements.
Asking questions to your kids opens up a dialogue and let’s them know that you care about what they have to say. Encourage them to share their feelings and ideas with you by asking these open ended questions.
Sometimes we need to look for answers together as parents and children. In addition, it is just as important for children to have a voice in the conversation to feel like they have an important role in the conversation.
Assurance and Safe talking Plays a big role
Lighten up the subject. Every school shooting is a tragedy and can be terrifying for students. For kids, it’s difficult to understand what’s happening in society in all its complexity and sometimes frightening to feel like they don’t have control over their safety.
Calmly and honestly saying that, yes, the incidents are scary but they’re also rare, helps your child understand that he or she is safe.
Let kids know that it’s okay to talk about difficult things
Normalizing having hard conversations can help kids feel comfortable and safe discussing their difficult thoughts and feelings. This is an important first step in helping parents know how to start the conversation with their children.
There are many ways to begin having conversations about hard things. Parents can begin by acknowledging when their child seems upset about a current news story and validating the feelings. This helps to normalize the feelings as normal, which can help kids feel a little less alone with what they are feeling.
Hard conversations are sometimes the most meaningful ones. However, for children and even adults, having that tough talk can be difficult. Parents have a challenging job during these times. How do you help your child cope with tragedy? How do you help them discuss important issues while still respecting their age? When it comes to navigating difficult conversations with children, it is critical to keep in mind that they see the world in black and white. They don’t always see nuance or shades of gray.
They just know something is hard and it is scary and they want answers. Sometimes, that is all we have to offer them — empathy and understanding during their grief. It’s not always easy, but when you’re talking to kids about gun violence – there are some things you should keep in mind: Patience, validating and acknowledging their feelings.
When Sandy Hook happened, kids were confronted with images they had never seen on their TVs or computer screens before. When it comes to talking to kids about the shooting, experts note that parents should “be honest and acknowledge their feelings.
Kids need reassurance.” Children deserve more than that. Asking your child what he or she knows about the shootings is a good way to start a conversation. Then go on to explain everything you know: The good and the bad. But there is also something else you can do–normalize having hard conversations with your kids. And don’t feel like you should have all the answers. Just be honest and authentic and say, “I’m not sure about that either,” if you are.
Empower your Kids with idea and tools
School shootings are not just horrific news stories; they are gut clenching reminders that our children need protection. The key to protecting children is not just to create secure campuses but to provide them with tools and skills they can use to advocate for themselves.
School shootings have rocked America over the past few years, but these tragedies haven’t dissuaded students from trying to make changes in how they deal with school violence. Students are increasingly taking on a leading role in responding to school shootings. Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School became outspoken advocates for gun reform after they encountered tragedy at the hands of accused gunman Nikolas Cruz.
Kids need to feel like they’re empowered and have skills to make a difference. The more prepared students are to recognize a problem, take action and find support, the more empowered they’re going to feel in their ability to impact change. Parents can help kids cope, empower them to make a positive impact on their peers or school culture, and help children who witnessed the shooting talk about what they saw or experienced.
Make these talks a habit not a one time talk
As a parent, you know that conversations about important topics like drugs, school shootings, and sex are very valuable. But finding the right approach to initiate those conversations can be difficult. The words you choose can make all the difference in helping your kids learn about these important topics, or shutting them down and making them feel uncomfortable.
Now, you don’t want to talk about this topic every day, but it’s important to keep the dialogue open. Instead of picking a specific day of the week, pick a time when you have a few moments. If it seems like there is an opportunity to talk about it, then do so.
Some thoughts of Parental Daily
It is a parent’s job to never stop trying to make the world safer for their children. From teaching them to ride their bike without training wheels, to letting them dress themselves, and even allowing them to eat sweets, it’s our job as parents to create an environment where they feel safe enough within their own home. But when it comes to talking about gun violence, these conversations need some careful attention.
It is important to discuss the issue of gun violence and school shootings with your kids. You don’t want to give them too much information at once, or you could scare them. When you take the time to speak with your children about it, make sure you point out that no one is allowed to bring a firearm onto campus, and that someone will visit their classroom if this happens. Everyone knows the rules, so everyone will follow them. Hopefully, talking about it helps reduce their fears and insecurities.
To have these conversations, avoid the temptation to tell them your own experience. Find out what questions they have first, then start asking open-ended questions that help you understand their needs and better direct your conversation with them. You can also direct them to additional resources for more information or to speak with a counselor at school or in your community. By following these suggestions, you will be well on your way to having a candid conversation about school violence and helping your child feel safe at school.
If your child is exposed to this type of event on the news or in their school, it’s important to talk about it. While it can be challenging to open a dialogue after witnessing this kind of news, it’s essential to help children learn how to react should something like this happen at their school. Make sure you’re responding the best way possible for the child you’re speaking with — don’t assume that insight from one child will translate across the board for all children experiencing this same situation.