How to Talk with Your Child About School Shootings

Posted by Gary Court on 3/15/2018 8:00:00 AM

Very few events hit home for children and families like a school shooting. When children see such an event on television or on the internet news, it is natural for them to worry about their own school and their own safety, especially if the violence occurred nearby.

Many psychologists say it's normal for parents to feel some anxiety as we digest the news of recent school shootings.  It is important to be in touch with our own worries and concerns and be cognizant that we do not transmit those to our children.  It is normal to think about the safety of our children at school.  And, do not be afraid to talk with friends and family about how we are feeling and ways to overcome our fears or insecurities.  


Advice on how to talk with your children:


Psychologists suggest the troubling news of school shootings can be an opportunity to talk and listen to children.  Remember, the conversation about the news should vary based on the age of your child.  Think about the analogy about a conversation of where do babies come from.  A conversation with an elementary student will be very different than someone older.  Many of our students are not aware of school shootings and it may not be appropriate at all to engage them in a discussion.  


Suggestions about how to talk with our elementary-age children if they raise the issue or your perceive that there is a need to address the issue:

  • Focus on the fact that many people are working to keep them safe. Point out specific ways Angell School is practicing safety (ex. exits are locked, intercom system to alert if there is a problem, all visitors go through the office, safety drills we practice, always follow school adults’ directions).
  • Allow your child to talk about fears. Help him or her with using "feeling" language so they can express themselves and be understood. Talking about fears is healthy. Being able to talk about how to manage fears is also healthy.
  • Ask your child questions to make it OK to talk about, "What would you do if you didn't feel safe in your school,"  (talk with your teacher, go to the office, find an adult and tell him or her)
  • Limit exposure to news coverage. Acknowledge the news coverage, allow it in a small dose (depending on the age and emotional maturity of the child), and then turn it off and talk openly as a family to make it OK.
  • Keep routine and typical plans to help your child feel they are functioning and that the world is still what they know. Focus on normal and predictable activities.

This short article may prove to be helpful: