Talking about School Shootings with your Children
Acts of school violence can scare and confuse a child who should feel safe in their educational situation, and they naturally seek adults for guidance, protection, and information. Because we live in a global society where news is instantaneous, children can often find out about an act of school violence before their parents. With that said, parents must be prepared to discuss the tragic event with their children in an appropriate manner. Parents can help to alleviate fears through normalcy and initiate an open discussion with their children about their feelings.
Mental Health experts suggest the following, before and after any act of school violence:
- Encourage the child to discuss their feelings and fears.
Many times, children are slow to initiate a conversation, therefore, the parent may begin by asking how their day was, and if they feel safe at school. Remember to use vocabulary that the child will understand because a young child might not understand the word violence, but certainly knows if someone is mean to them. The parent may recount a school story of their youth, talking about a bully or a classmate that was not nice, therefore, making the child more comfortable in telling their own story.
Reassure the child that schools are safe, while validating their emotions of fear and confusion. Aid them in putting their feelings into perspective and help them to express their emotions. Allow them to ask questions, and most importantly, BE PATIENT. In this case, patience is a virtue, and will benefit both child and parent.
Some children may be more comfortable conveying their feelings in an essay or poem, or even in a drawing or painting. They may want to perform a play about their school activities or occurrences. Watch and listen closely, as many times, clues to their feelings or fears are hidden in the seemly harmless play between classmates in the yard.