Here’s How to Talk to Your Young Child About School Shootings
Let me start off this post by saying, I hate that I have to even write this.
A parent’s nightmare, hands-down, is the though of something bad happening to your children. And nowhere is this fear more apparent than in the days following a mass shooting or violent event at a school.
I don’t care what your politics are on gun control, but everyone agrees on this one apparent–but sick–truth that we now officially need to talk with our kids about how to keep themselves safe, even in places where they thought “being safe” was a given.
I interviewed Dave Benson on my Facebook page a while ago as part of a series of live interviews I’ve been doing with people on various life- and motherhood-related topics, but I thought this was worth breaking down into a quickly-digestable and shareable post so that parents can get his best advice distilled into a few points.
You can read more about Dave’s extensive history in security here, but here are some basic tips any parent of a young child can implement to make the kids–and they–feel safer, starting now.
Start with What They Know
By the time kids reach toddlerhood, most parents have introduced the concept of strangers, or “Stranger Danger.” Use their awareness of this concept of unfamiliarity to kick-start the conversation. It should end with the lesson that kids need to know that they should trust their instincts, and never be scared to talk about their feeling that something is “off.”
Here’s how Dave puts it:
“My approach has always been to build upon the Stranger Conversation with our kids. If someone they don’t know is asking—or doing something that they know is not right or safe—then they need to let someone know and/or go to a safe place. This should be reinforced by providing options whenever possible.”
So, how do you put this it into action? Tell your young child:
1 – Trust your feelings. They’re there for a reason! Never go against your gut.
2 – If something feels strange or weird in school, talk to your teacher about it!
3 – If you hear something loud, tell your teacher!
If someone they don’t know is asking—or doing something that they know is not right or safe—then they need to let someone know and/or go to a safe place.
But Don’t Say These Words
Dave says there are some words that may produce unnecessary worry or anxiety in young children:
“Try to avoid emotionally-charged words such as a kill, die or shoot, and focus on words such as scare, hurt, or unsafe.”
Instead, reinforce the notion that it’s okay for them to think that something feels “off,” but they should always follow up on that feeling with an adult. Tell your child that it’s okay to go to teachers if he has a question about why something looks, feels, or seems different than it normally is–whether that’s an element of their environment, or even another child’s behavior.
Reinforce the notion that it’s okay for them to think that something feels “off,” but they should always follow up on that feeling with an adult. Tell your child that it’s okay to go to teachers if he has a question about why something looks, feels, or seems different than it normally is–whether that’s an element of their environment, or even another child’s behavior.
Bottom line, encourage the feeling that your child should be comfortable talking to nearby adults about what he’s feeling. The teacher can decide what’s worth further investigation, and take the ball from there.
Do Your Part as a Parent
This is where your voice matters. Specifically, this is where parents can use their voices to influence policy in their child’s school.
“I advocate being an informed parent! Ask staff and teachers, ‘What emergency plans are in place? What drills are conducted, and how frequently are they exercised?'”
And Dave says there should be multiple options for emergency response at your child’s school.
“If lockdown is the only response policy in place, advocate an ‘options-based’ approach to extreme violence (such as an active shooter) which encourages “Run, Hide, Fight.”
[This can also be called] ‘Get Out, Hide Out, Call Out, Spread Out, Take Out.’ [They are] alternatives to simply locking down and waiting for first responders to arrive.
When seconds count, help is often minutes away. Therefore, we need to train staff and teachers and students to believe what they see and hear, and respond accordingly.”
How do you talk to your kids about current events that could impact them. Do you at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in Comments below.