How to Talk to Your Children About School Shootings

photo from Refuge Center

Following traumatic events, like the school shooting that took place at The Covenant School in Nashville on March 27, many parents and guardians often wonder how they should talk about it with their children. The Refuge Center in Franklin is sharing information to help parents discuss this with their children. Hopefully, these tips will help you and your family in the following days. The Refuge Center is part of Find Hope Franklin, a collection of mental health resources available to the community. If you are seeking help, visit the Find Hope Franklin website here. 

Do not be afraid to talk about it.

They will probably hear about it from friends, the internet, or at their school. It is better
that you bring up the conversation first so that they know they can come ask/talk to you
about it. Approach your kids when you have felt your own emotions about the events. It
is important that you remain calm while talking to them. You can initiate the
conversation by saying “Hey, have you heard about what happened today?”

Let them know it is normal to be scared!

When you normalize the emotions that you feel it will help them place words to the
emotions that they may be feeling. You can validate these emotions by saying “It’s
completely ok and normal if you are feeling .”

Be clear in your language and give as much information as is appropriate for their age.

This is one conversation that you do not want to be fuzzy or lighthearted about. When
you are straightforward and clear, children will be confident in their understanding, and
it will elicit questions from them.

Avoid promises that are out of your control.

This one is a hard pill to swallow. We all want and desire to promise our children that
they will never get hurt. However, as parents, it is important to remember that we can
only promise to protect them when it comes to safety. This means that promising that
their school will never have a shooting is out of the question. It is, unfortunately, out of
our control. Instead, let them know that school shootings are rare and that they have practice drills. This is a good time to check in on if your child is aware of the procedure. If not, remind them that teachers and school staff are trained in the protocol.

Ask if they have any questions.

If you are at a loss of what to say, ask them what their questions are. Take time to really
understand their concerns and do your best to answer. If you are unsure of the answer,
let them know you will do some research and get back to them with the answer. If they
don’t have any questions, let them know they can come talk to you about it at any time.

Keep an eye out for continued fear, anxiety, or anger.

It is normal for them to experience fear, anxiety, and anger following this news. If you
feel like these emotions are prolonged, see professional help.

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