How to Talk to Children About Mass Shootings

I wish we were in a country where we didn’t have to talk to our children regularly about completely preventable gun violence, but here we are. Until now, my two sons have been too young to know about the common horrors that lax gun handling brings on our fellow citizens, but I have a feeling that I will have to talk to my seven-year-old about this later. today.

This is what makes it challenging: our job as parents is to keep our children safe and to make them feel safe. Regular mass shootings in schools, nightclubs, workplaces and concert venues remind us that there really is little we can do to protect our children from an armed and violent person.

However, our children need to know the facts and be confident that we and the other adults in their lives are caring for them. If you need a little guidance on how to get this conversation going with your kids, check out the resources below.

Understand the question “Why?”

“Try not to blame mental illness,” says Ellen Hendricksen, a psychologist who writes for Quick Dirty Tips . “Explaining that the shooter was mentally ill equates mental illness with violence, which increases the stigma and reduces the willingness to speak up and seek help for millions of people struggling with mental illness. At a time when almost every family knows someone struggling with mental illness, you don’t want kids to mistakenly equate the school shooter with Uncle Rick’s depression or fear a child with autism in the next block. “

It’s okay, says Dr. Hendriksen, to say that we don’t know why people do these things. Some people do terrible, harmful things, but there are many more good people in the world than bad ones.

Calm down

Mass shootings have increased in recent years , but the chances of anyone being injured or killed by a school shooting are relatively low: Everytown for Gun Safety monitored school shootings for three years from 2013 to 2015 and found that the shooting resulted in 59 deaths and 124 non-fatal injuries. Of course, there are far too many deaths and injuries now, but given the number of schools in the US, we can at least convince ourselves that the chances of being killed or injured in a school shooting are pretty low. There is no need to go into details about young children – just say “this is very unlikely” and reassure them that all adults in the school are working hard to keep them safe. If your child arranges isolation drills, take Dr. Hendriksen’s advice and point out that the school also has fire drills – and how often did they actually have school fires? (Obviously, don’t do this if your child had a school fire.)

As NBCNews said Melissa Brymer, director of programs for combating terrorism and natural disasters in the National Center of Child Traumatic Stress at the University of California in Los Angeles : “Explain that emergencies can happen in many ways, and that the schools have plans in the event of crises, to keep the kids safe. they can learn. “

Talk about your fears

I myself do not particularly like talking to children about unpleasant things right before bedtime, because it is then that their protection is lowest. But let them take the lead – if they want to discuss their fears and worries, give them the opportunity to do so and don’t dismiss or challenge their fears. Emphasize that while there are many scary events in the news, most people want a safer world and are actively working to create one. Dr. Hendriksen againrefers to Mr. Rogers ‘advice “seek helpers, ” but parents may find the second half of Mr. Rogers’ comment even more helpful: point to emergency workers, paramedics, police, ambulance drivers. Show your kids these videos that by 4:15 am the parking lots at blood donation centers in Las Vegas were full.

But are you a little tired of the advice “look for helpers” after the entire single mass execution? So do I. It may be time to introduce your children to the “helpers” who really have to do something — members of Congress. The best thing to do is talk about how to prevent such things from happening in the future.


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