How To Talk to Children About Mass Shootings

By Jim Dugan Feb 16, 2018
How to talk to children about school shootings.

Jim Dugan

Kids of all ages hear about mass shootings. When this tragedy happens in a school it of course hits closer to home. Children often experience worry and anxiety. As a parent what should you do?

Ask the child “what have you heard? What are you thinking? Are you afraid?”

Keep responses age appropriate. Do not give too much information or details to younger kids. Avoid saying too much yourself. Encourage the child to do the talking, although teenagers can obviously handle more information and more specifics. Encourage your teenagers to let school officials and you know if they come across threats to others on social media.

Reassure kids they are safe — that you love them and will do all you can to make sure they are safe.

Mention “we have no guns at home” - or if we do - “they are in a gun safe -locked.” Reassure your kids about your own guns and your safety plan for them.

If possible avoid saying the school shooter is crazy or mentally ill—you could be right but this could just re-stigmatizes mental illness and the 1 in 5 people who suffer with a mental health-issues.

How can your children help?

Kids can say a prayer for the victims, donate or perform an extra act of kindness in memory of the victims.

Repeat your conversation as necessary. It may take a couple of days for your child to process. If your child’s anxiety persists, you may want to consult with your pediatrician or a child therapist.

We all want to know why someone would do such a terrible thing. It is okay to let your children know you don’t have all the answers. But as they hear more news about the Florida tragedy in the coming days and weeks, be sure to let them know you will be there if they want to talk it over.