How to Talk to Your Kids About Shootings

School shootings and other mass shootings can be difficult for kids to understand. As parents, we want our kids to feel safe and secure in their lives. We want to protect them from all harm; physical, emotional, and mental. However, the world can be unpredictable and dangerous at times. With children learning safety protocols during school as a precaution, the reality of mass shootings is not lost on them. Parents might struggle to talk about such challenging topics with their kids.

The Importance of Talking About It

Sometimes, as adults, we assume that things in the media do not phase our kids. We might think that they do not pay attention to the news or other outlets of information. Additionally, we might think, if our kids had questions about something, they would ask us. Under this assumption, we may believe that our kids only think about things if they vocalize their questions or thoughts.

As parents, we need to open the conversation for them. Our kids are often more aware of things than we give them credit. They are not blind or deaf to the state of the world or societal concerns. Though they might not be talking about things they saw on the news, they are most likely thinking about these things. We perhaps need to open up a dialogue about some of the troubling realities about the world to help them process these issues and learn how to stay safe.

Preparation Minimizes Fear

Some parents avoid conversations about mass shootings because they do not want to frighten their children. Parents could assume that bringing these topics up will only alarm their child and create fear of going into public spaces. However, since they will likely be thinking about these topics anyway or completing shooter drills at school, we should be discussing these topics at home as well.

Our kids might have questions about what they learned in school in case of a shooting. They may understand what to do to stay safe, yet they might need to process these things with us. We can equate school shooting preparedness with other safety measures that we use every single day. For example, we put on seat belts or wear bicycle helmets to prevent accidents from turning deadly. Preparing for school shootings is another safety measure that can be equated to these everyday precautions.

Knowledge about what will occur in the moment of the worst-case scenario can help minimize a child’s fear. Rather than scaring our kids by talking about school shootings, we assure them that we are aware of these dangers and have their safety as our priority. Just knowing that we, as adults, have thought about these things, created plans, and are willing to discuss shootings with kids can help them feel more secure about going out into the world.

What Our Kids Need to Know About Shooters

Mass shooters are not just waking up one day and deciding to enact a random act of violence. They often are troubled and leave warning signs before the event. Often, kids who commit mass shootings are suicidal and emotionally disturbed. They might be making threats to their peers in the school or displaying other disturbing behaviors that might indicate they are dangerous.

Following the Parkland school shooting, several people in the community revealed details about the disturbing and threatening behavior of shooter Nikolas Cruz. Some knew that he had a fascination with weapons, showing them off to other students. He also showed off mutilated animals and made violent threats to other people in the community. Yet, despite these warning signs, nothing was done to intervene with these behaviors.

While we still are learning more about commonalities among school shooters, if we can identify and intervene before threatening behavior escalates, we could perhaps prevent shootings from occurring in the first place. We need to let our kids know that they need to talk to their teachers and us about threatening or disturbing behaviors from fellow students. Being aware of troubled kids within the school can help identify these kids and intervene before acting on their violent tendencies. 

Be Willing and Available to Talk About Difficult Subjects

The best way to keep our kids safe is to open the dialogue about challenging topics. We might feel uncomfortable about these topics; however, we can find more information from a wealth of sources about how to talk to our kids. We can connect to other parents over Facebook groups, like Fire Mountain’s “Parenting Teens That Struggle,” to share resources and support about talking to our kids about mass shootings and other topics. By opening the dialogue, we show our kids that we are thinking about their safety and concerns regarding complex issues like school shootings.

School shootings can be difficult for our kids to understand. We might not know how to talk to them about safety or prevention of mass shootings. We might even want to deny the reality of the issue, thinking that we won’t be putting fear into our kids if we don’t talk about shootings. However, without knowing what to do in the event of a school shooting, our kids might feel more fearful about going to school. As parents, we might need to open up the conversation, especially when that topic is challenging or uncomfortable. Just because our kids are not bringing up questions about shootings, they likely hear about these things in the media or school. We can help them feel secure by bringing these issues up in the home as well. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here to help kids and parents. Our parenting workshops and supportive environment can help you learn how to talk to your kid about complex topics. Call us at (303) 443-3343.

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