I can’t believe we are talking about this again. Another mass school shooting, this time taking the lives of 17 people in a Florida high school. When are school shootings going to stop? My heart breaks for all those affected by these senseless acts. Enough is enough.
After these horrific shootings, as parents we are left wondering: What should I tell my kids? Should I address this with them? How should I talk to them about these senseless and clueless acts?
1. Some children don’t need to hear about a school mass shooting. I don’t believe we should bring it up with toddlers, preschoolers or even young elementary school children, unless we think they are going to hear about it on their own, from teachers, classmates, playground friends, religious leaders, older siblings…
Remember that children sometimes need to ask the same question over and over and over again to process and absorb tough or difficult information like this. Be patient and ready to answer the same questions many times.
2. Bring it up to your older children. They are going to hear about it anyway, and you want to make sure their questions are answered and any fears are addressed.
The first step would be to ask them what they’ve heard about it, ask them questions and invite them to ask you questions. It is perfectly ok to tell our kids that we don’t know why people decide to do these horrible things. Some people do awful, senseless, painful, irreversible and unexplainable things.
Thankfully, there are many more good people than bad people in the world. Remind them what Mr. Rogers always said “look for the helpers.” Make sure they see how people come together after these types of events, show them the first responders, policemen, emergency workers, ambulance crews, blood donors, anonymous heroes that protect their fellow citizens, people who raise money to support the victims, etc. It is amazing to see how kindness and love always rise up after these heartbreaking shootings, and our kids need to understand how resilient human beings are, and that love always wins.
3. Validate your children’s fears. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing their fears, you want them to open up with you, so you can help them cope. If you respond with a “you’re going to be fine,” or “don’t worry about it”, we risk them shutting down.
Instead, we can say something like “It’s OK to be scared and sad, I feel that way too sometimes when things like this happen.” We should speak honestly about our feelings about school shootings, so our children understand that they are not alone in feeling those big feelings.
4. Reassure your children that they grown ups around them and their school have plans in place to do everything they can to keep them safe.
Discuss with them the safety procedures that are in place in their school. You can remind them that all the school doors are locked at all times, security cameras are located all around the school, and that all visitors need to sign in the front office before entering the building. It is also good to remind them how their school has drills to teach them how to react in case something goes wrong.
Even though, numbers are not in my favor, and in less than 2 months, there had already been 19 school shootings in the US; I truly hope we will never have to use this, and mass school shootings are a thing of the past. I hope our representatives take action and find the best way to end this senseless masacres once and for all.
Stay safe! Much love, Diana-