Talking to Your Children About Violence at School

Today, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., returned for the new school year almost six months to the day since a shooter opened fire on them. For many, August marks the return to school and a season that’s usually filled with excitement about the coming year. Due to recent violent events, this time might instead be filled with fear and anxiety.

Unfortunately, gun violence in the United States has become an all too common occurrence. During the 2017-18 school year, there were more than 30 shootings in or around schools. Roughly this translates to a shooting per week. Only a few stand out in our minds, like Parkland and Santa Fe, because so many lost their lives.

As an adult, seeing these events unfold is both challenging and heartbreaking. We think about the little ones we love and how we would feel if that happened in our school. We try to process our feelings while staying positive. We ask how anyone could do this and hug our children, nieces, nephews, and friends a little tighter.

Inevitably, our children will have questions too.

Even if their screen time is limited, it’s likely they still have some awareness of what’s going on. Active shooter training and drills are increased at school and they hear about the tragedies in passing. To help you have these difficult conversations, GSUSA shared an article with some tips to assist you in your home that can be used at your discretion.

1. Admit what she saw was real

In an effort to protect younger ones, your inclination might be to tell them it came from a movie and didn’t actually happen. Resist this urge and help build their trust by being honest.

2. Let her lead the conversation

Ask her open-ended questions about what she saw and heard and focus on listening.

3. Provide stability

Kids thrive on routine and it shouldn’t be disrupted just because it may seem like to her (and you), the world is falling apart. Make an effort to keep mealtimes and bedtimes the same so they have some level of consistency.

4. Don’t be alarmed by some regression

Your child may request the light stays on while they sleep or might even wet the bed. Don’t let the frustrations get the best of you – remember that this a normal thing.

5. Practice self-care

In order to be stable for your child, you need to be stable for yourself. Make sure you’re managing your anxiety instead of spreading fear.

6. Know you can reach out

Sometimes we all need a little more help. Don’t be afraid to seek additional assistance from a professional.

For the full list, check out GSUSA’s blog.

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