In many school districts across the country, preparations are being made for the potential of a school shooting. Combined with coverage of gun violence on the media, kids are becoming aware of what school shootings are—and it’s important to talk about their fears so you can make them feel safe, say experts. We spoke to psychotherapist Nancy Kislin, author of the new book, Lockdown: Talking To Your Kids About School Violence, about ways to address this important issue.
Know What They’re Exposed To
Parents should know what is happening in their school district, says Kislin. Lockdown drills, where a PA announcement is made for kids to “lock down” are being rolled out in schools nationwide, but with different specifics. Protocol in some cases won’t allow teachers to tell students it’s a drill, which can be frightening.
Talk Before They Have Questions
Once you know specifics, talk about them casually, says Kislin. “Don’t say ‘Oh wow, I heard you had a drill today!’ Say ‘My friend said her daughter had a lock down drill today. Did you have one?’ You don’t want them to think you’re freaked out. They need to know the school has their best interest at heart,” says Kislin.
Monitor their Media Use
You can keep track of what younger kids are watching on TV, but with bigger kids, it gets tougher. “You have to assume whoever has a smart phone has seen something pretty awful after a tragedy,” says Kislin. Again, after a school shooting, bring it up in a casual context. “Just drop in a question, ‘Did you hear something about X?’ Be more curious, or investigative, rather than telling them details,” she adds.
Explain They Don’t Have to Watch
You can remind kids that they can turn off a TV or close a page on a web browser. “You can tell them, ‘Sometimes there are scary things online or on TV and you don’t have to watch.’”
Tell Them How Safe They Really Are
Although frightening, these tragedies are still extremely rare, and kids may not realize that given the coverage they see. “Remind your kids that 52 million children go to school every day in this country and they are safe. We hear about really sad things that happen, but people are working in this country to make this better. And Mom and Dad wouldn’t send you to school if we didn’t think you were safe,” suggests Kislin.
For more information on this topic, go to Kislin’s facebook page on the subject.
To read our interview with journalist Amye Archer and her new book profiling survivors of school shootings, click here.