Talking About School Shootings To Kids
No parent wants to talk about school shootings to their kids. Until quite recently, such a topic would have been unimaginable for most families. Unfortunately, this issue is a reality for the foreseeable future, whether in the form of lockdown drills at school, political yard signs, or actual events.
We understand the reluctance among parents to acknowledge such a traumatic topic let alone to willingly embrace the stress of navigating and explaining such a complex societal phenomenon to children. We hope that this article will offer you some means of insight and support in talking to your kids about school shootings.
Why This Conversation Is So Important
One of the most common parental instincts is to shelter children from seeing, hearing, and learning about inexplicably awful events that have taken place or are taking place in the world. This urge to protect their sense of safety and security is rational as well as commendable.
The problem, unfortunately, that comes with trying to shield our kids from learning about current or past traumatic events is that it’s not within our control. Kids are destined at some point to find out the potential for cruelty, grief, and harm caused by other humans. That’s why talking about school shootings is an important opportunity for you to at least have some control over the context and narrative of the conversation.
Though it may seem counterintuitive considering the terrible nature of having to discuss school shootings with your kids, not having the conversation can potentially lead to greater harm. Here are some of the negative consequences that may result from avoiding this topic:
- Your child may end up hearing and believing exaggerated stories or false information
- Your child may assume that they cannot openly express their thoughts or anxiety to you
- Your child may have trouble processing intruder/shooter drills at their school
- Your child may have difficulty adjusting to society as a complex and complicated place
Admittedly talking about school shootings with a kid of any age is an excruciating conversation. However, avoiding or not acknowledging the reality of this topic is potentially more destructive in the long term. By opening up this conversation with your child, you are providing them with a supportive path for navigating tragedy in the world. In addition, you are conveying to them how seriously you take your responsibility as a parent to build a relationship of trust, honesty, and love.
Consider Appropriate Timing
Of course, there is never an ideal time for talking to your kids about tragedy. However, there are factors to consider so that your timing has a gentler impact on your child’s understanding of the subject. This will help to ease their anxiety, fear, and discomfort when discussing issues such as school shootings.
Here are some guidelines to consider when deciding the proper time to have this conversation:
- Ensure that you, as a parent, are in a state of calm and rational thinking. It’s fine to show emotions when speaking to your kids about this difficult topic, but they need to know overall that you are a source of strength and steadiness for them.
- Ensure that your child is also in a state of calm. Don’t begin the conversation just before bed, while they are hungry or tired, or if they’ve had a difficult day.
- Allow the conversation to take its course, even if it’s very short. If your child doesn’t want to express their thoughts or feelings or ask any questions, don’t pressure them to do so. Reassure them that if they want to talk about the subject again that they have your support and readiness.
- Consider not just your child’s age, but also their level of development. This can help guide you in using appropriate timing and understandable language to address this complicated and difficult concept.
- Though it’s important for you to consider the timing of talking to your kids about school shootings, make sure that you give your children the time to talk about this subject when they bring it up or request it. Such a serious issue should be addressed as soon as possible so your child knows that you are attentive to their questions and concerns when they express them.
If you find that your initial talk about school shootings is too upsetting or inadequate in some way, be easy on yourself. There will be opportunities to revisit the subject. More importantly, if you and/or your child feel ongoing distress about this topic, it is advisable to seek helpful coping resources and even professional support.
Limit Screen Time and Media Exposure
Most parents understand the need to limit the time their children spend using screens and digital media. This is especially important during intense media coverage of events such as school shootings. Even with parental rules and controls in place, your child may encounter images, stories, and rhetoric on television or the internet that results in fear, anxiety, and confusion.
It’s also healthy advice for parents to limit their own screen time and media exposure. Children of all ages are very perceptive when it comes their parent’s state of mind and emotions. Too much involvement with screens and digital media has negative effects on adults as well as kids.
The Power of Gratitude
At times, it seems impossible to overcome the trauma and sadness that we witness in the world. However, gratitude is a powerful means of regaining perspective and reminding ourselves that there is far more beauty and goodness out there than destruction. In many ways, expressing gratitude daily produces feelings of wellness and peace much like developing mindfulness. It’s also an easy activity for humans of all ages to do.
You can model the power of gratitude as a method of coping with confusing and tragic world events so that your children learn this technique early on. Here are just some ideas for the whole family to practice daily gratitude:
- List 3 or more people or things each morning and/or evening for which you feel thankful
- Draw a picture of someone or something for which you are grateful and display it for everyone to see
- Write a thank-you note or draw a picture for someone who makes your day brighter or more special (such as a teacher, librarian, mail person, neighbor, etc.)
- Use bubble solution to “blow” gratitude and thanks to all the people working hard to protect others and make the world a better place
At Cognisprings, we are aware of the challenges that parents and children face in times of unpredictability. That’s why we would like to express our gratitude for all of you who are raising lifelong learners and civic-minded individuals. We support parents looking for educational toys that inspire children to explore who they are and their environment as well as express themselves through imagination and critical thinking. That’s why we provide books, puzzles, games, and toys that are thoughtfully designed for creativity, and curiosity, and understanding.
Cognisprings prioritizes fun and educational activities that are screen-free, promote healthy cognitive development, and encourage personal growth through exposure to diverse ideas, subjects, and people. Family togetherness, such as playing games, is more important than ever for creating lasting memories and strong bonds and opportunities for asking questions and communicating in a supportive and loving manner. Thank you for allowing us to share our ideas and products with your family.