Talking To Your Kids About School Shootings

In wake of recent events across the nation, many people are scared, angry, anxious, and fearful to send their kids to school.  Not only are parents struggling to overcome their fears about the rise in school shootings, but young children are struggling to even wrap their minds around this.  To them, unfortunately, hearing about school shootings is becoming the norm.  Lock down drills are just another day at their schools.  Some may suggest that there is a numbing component that is beginning to develop in our countries young minds. Regardless, I think all of us can agree that it is getting out of hand and something needs to be done.  The first step, however, is making sure we are there for our kids and that we learn how to help our children process through these difficult times.This article will provide suggestions on how to talk to your children and how to make them feel safe.

Process Your Own Emotions First

The first and most important thing to do before talking to your children is to make sure you work through your own personal feelings about a tragedy.  Let’s face it, you’re human and you’re going to experience strong emotions when these types of things occur.  If you immediately jump into a conversation with your child before processing through your fears and concerns, this could have a negative impact on your talk with your child.  Taking care of your well-being and finding support is of utmost importance.  Join a parent support group, talk to another parent or a counselor, but whatever you do, make sure you have someone to talk to about your feelings first.  If you are honest with yourself, you’ll have an easier time being honest with your children too.

Don’t Pressure Your Child

When a tragedy occurs, your first instinct is going to be to make sure your child is okay, that they aren’t hurt, and that they are safe. All of those things are important and will be the priority.  You may have the urge to immediately talk to your child and help them work through difficult emotions.  The thing is, they may not have even had time to process their thoughts.  Most of the time, they are going to be overwhelmed and will most likely just need time to decompress.  The best thing to do once you get them home is to keep them comfortable, let them know they are safe, and provide nurture and care.  You may want your child to immediately open up to you about their feelings.  Try to avoid this.  Give your child space, but let them know that when they’re ready to talk that you are there for them.  Be sure not to rush your child or make them feel as though they need to talk about their feelings right away.  Give them a few days and eventually you can set a day and time to chat.

Set a Time to Talk

Instead of trying to talk to you child right away, set a time to check in weekly or every other week at least.  This could be at bedtime or during dinner.  During these times, let your child know they can talk about anything that’s on their mind.  Make sure you let them know you are just checking in to make sure they’re okay and to help them work through any concerns they may have.  Let them know you won’t judge and you’re there to support them no matter what! Let your child know you can answer questions they have and let them take the lead on what they want to discuss.  Try not to put ideas in their head that may cause fear or more discomfort. Answer their questions appropriately and with just the right amount of information so not to freak them out.

Teach Your Child Stress Relieving Techniques

It may prove helpful to teach your child ways they can relieve stress and anxious feelings.  For instance, deep breathing techniques, writing in journals, meditation, and talking through their emotions.  All of these things can aid your child in developing healthy habits that will decrease scary thoughts.  Encourage positive thoughts and gratitude. Help them take notice of the good things throughout their day, rather than the negative aspects.  It may be helpful to look up some of these techniques, buy books, or even think about bringing your child to a mental health counselor.

Provide Reassurance

Provide your child with reassurance that you are going to do your best to always make sure they are safe.  Obviously, you cannot promise your child that that bad things won’t happen, but let them know what you can control. Have them know you are there for them when they need you.  That you will always do your best to keep them out of harms way.  Explain there are things that are out of your control, but your child is always your priority.

Talking to your child about this topic is not an easy task, but it is an important one.  Making the time, processing through your own feelings, and giving your child unconditional support are the key ingredients in working through these difficult events.  For more support or questions, feel free to contact us.  We are happy to help!