Sadly school shootings have become normative in our culture and parents are faced with the question of how and when to talk to their kids about being safe in school. Here are a few tips and resources to help parents navigate these discussions:
1. Keep discussions age appropriate. Younger children need more reassurance and less specific information. They may have questions about active shooter drills or why there was a school walkout. Keep information short and age appropriate and reassure your child that adults are always taking measures to keep students safe. Older kids and teenagers will want to talk more and may want to get more involved in advocacy efforts. Make sure to make time to talk and practice reflective listening. Echo back their concerns and ideas.
2. Limit exposure to the news. News tends to refresh and replay the same upsetting images and soundbytes. Exposure to these stories via television or on the radio can be upsetting and confusing for children. Also, keep an eye out for newsfeeds that come up as ads or pop-ups on social media. Your child may be watching news footage unbeknownst to you.
3. Pay attention. Know the signs of stress or anxiety in your child. Pay attention to changes in behavior such as excessive worry, nightmares or sleep disruptions. Consider reaching out to a qualified child mental health professional if you see any of these symptoms for an extended period.
4. Stay on top of what is happening locally. Follow and attend school board meetings, talk to your child’s school principal or administrator. In the wake of the latest shooting at Parkland, many school districts have made changes to their safety policy. Share this information with your child as well as with other caregivers so that they can be prepared for changes in school visitation or pickup policies.
5. Stay connected. Encouraging regular communication with your child is the best way to know what’s going on in your child’s school . Consider scheduling a regular time to meet with your child to discuss any concerns they may have. Creating an environment of open communication will beget open communication.
Resources for parents:
Check out this recent piece which was featured in Time magazine by Dr. Ross Greene: