by Nikki Daniels
If you follow the news even semi-regularly, it can often seem like a mass shooting is happening somewhere in the U.S. every week, including in our schools. That perception is common: 4 in 10 Americans worry that they or their family will be a victim in a mass shooting, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. Just this weekend, I heard on Saturday about a shooting at a high school football game the night before, then on Sunday about a shooting at a video game competition. Again I watched the news as traumatized young people were interviewed about what they had seen and heard, and imagined what it was like for parents to learn that their child would not be coming home.
It is often difficult for parents to know how to handle things like this with our children. It’s even hard to know how to talk with them about things designed to help keep them safe, like active shooter drills in their schools. Here are some ideas:
1.While we all need to focus on safety, keep the risk in perspective. Literally millions of children in Florida go to school every day and come home happy and healthy. Our 24 hour news cycle makes it seem that there is a shooting around every corner, but that’s just not the case.
2. When something awful does happen, limit your child’s exposure to the television coverage. It’s not good for any of us to watch scary things over and over again.
3. Answer your child’s questions at a developmentally appropriate level. Just answer what they asked in language they can understand without giving more information than they asked for.
4. The most important part- your child will look to you for how to respond. If you are scared and upset, your child probably will be too. Your child needs to know that you can take care of him or her.
5. It’s scary that we live in a world where active shooter drills are practiced in our schools. Again, same as above, your child will look to you for how to respond to this. Your child has learned other ways to stay safe such as fire drills, not to go swimming without an adult present and not to go with strangers. Children often learn that they should scream, run away or fight—whatever it takes so the stranger does not take them. Active shooter drills are similar. Listen to your child to hear if he or she is worried or scared about the active shooter drills. If the answer is yes, talk to your child’s school about how they can practice the drills without unduly scaring the child.
We live in a world where we have to take precautions to be safe and to keep our children safe. It’s often hard for parents when the child is in school because they have to rely on others to keep them safe.
Here are lots of great resources for parents and schools: https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/terrorism-and-violence/school-shooting-resources