End Fear and Enter Empowerment. How to Respond when your Children ask Questions about School Shootings.

Abigail Tingle M.S.


The beginning of the new year has marked 11 shootings in America. The most recent attack in a high school in Kentucky seems to have left our nation numb to gun violence and school shootings. In times of distress, parents and caregivers fall silent when asked questions by their children about the recent attacks. From a preventative standpoint, this is the worst thing to do. Unanswered questions leave your child guessing and wondering on the subject, resulting in fear and worry. While these occurrences are indeed frightening, we must teach our children to understand violence and the importance of awareness. Instead of instilling fear into the minds of our children, let us empower them by providing them with age-appropriate knowledge of these events. Do you want to be able to discuss these incidents with your children? Check out some of our helpful tips below.

·         Keep the story simple. The younger the child, the simpler the explanation of the event should be. Keep in mind what you want your child to take away from this conversation. A young child should be given as little detail as possible.

·         Be honest, but do not overshare. Be sure to truthfully answer the questions that your child asks you. The worst thing that can be done is to spread false information. However, remember not to provide too much detail if the child does not ask. Often, children want to know the synopsis of the event and the upsetting details are not beneficial whatsoever.

·         Be available for questions and conversation at all times. Explain the basics of these events, keeping in mind the age, maturity and temperament of your child. Understand that one conversation may not suffice, and it is likely that your child will return with more questions. Be available and open to this. Some children are more apt to handle intense information than others.

·         Ask them what they know, since they'll probably have gotten their information from friends, and you may have to correct facts.

·         Consider your own reactions. Your kids will look to the way you handle the news to determine their own approach. If you stay calm and rational, they will, too. Process your own emotional response and have your first reaction away from your child.

·         Focus on the positive. This may be difficult to find. Try and highlight the heroes of the story and stress their importance.

·         Take action. Depending on the issue and kids' ages, families can find ways to help those affected by recent events. (i.e. sending postcards or drawings to the victim’s families or community)

·         Most importantly, listen to what your child has to say. Create a safe and understanding environment where children can feel free to come to you if they have questions or concerns. This way you can be certain they are receiving factual and age appropriate information.

By increasing understanding of school violence and shootings, we look to diminish fear in our children. Providing factual, age-appropriate information about these events gives a sense of empowerment to your child. This way, they can go to school and feel that they have the power to spread information that will benefit their peers and diminish their fears as well. Simply answering questions and having a conversation about school shootings spreads awareness and instills strength and confidence in children. Strong and confident children are less likely to fall into the footsteps of those committing violent acts before them. For more information on how to discuss violent events with your children, visit  http://www.nbcnews.com/id/15109195/ns/health-childrens_health/t/how-talk-your-kids-about-shootings/#.WmoLmTdOnIU