The phrases “gun violence,” “school shootings,” and “active shooters” evoke fear and anxiety in parents across the nation. Unfortunately, recent tragic events, such as school shootings, mall shootings, and shootings at people’s homes, have made gun violence awareness feel like an urgent topic that needs to be discussed at dinner tables. Parents no longer feel at ease after dropping their children off at school, as they anxiously wait for a call about a tragic event. They often wonder if their school will be the next target and how many active shooter drills their child has completed. Some schools even require clear backpacks in response to recent mass shootings.
As parents, we may have to initiate difficult conversations because this feels like the new normal.
Reena B. Patel (LEP, BCBA) renowned parenting and school psychologist, board-certified behavior analyst, and author of Winnie & Her Worries shares that parents can play a crucial role in facilitating discussions, providing factual information, being the first line of communication, and offering a safe harbor of support.
Below are some tips to get the conversation going:
- Check in with yourself. It is crucial to check in with your own emotions first. Children can quickly pick up on stress and anxiety, so it is imperative to have worked through any issues you have with the subject matter. This way, you can approach the conversation calmly and reassuringly.
- Make them feel safe. Making your child feel safe is paramount. Children of all ages, from toddlers to teens, will benefit from your touch. They may have experienced secondary trauma from media exposure, peer conversations, or even observing your own responses to the tragedies.
- Ask questions. Asking your child specific questions about their understanding of the recent shootings is essential. Ask where they heard about the shootings and what specifically worries them. Knowing where they get their information will help you better understand where to start the conversation.
- Remind them that there are more good people in the world than there are bad people, and the good people will always try to take care of and protect them.
- Turn off the constant media coverage. It is also important to turn off constant media coverage, as even toddlers can hear it from another room. If your child has been exposed to news coverage, clarify and make sure they feel safe. Children who believe that bad events are temporary can recover more quickly from them than those who hear and watch continuous coverage.
- Never a one and done conversation. Remember that this conversation is not a one-time event; for children, questions may arise that require ongoing reassurance. It is natural for children to process information at their pace, and they may need additional support.
- Know when to seek help. If your child exhibits anxiety for an extended period, seek help. If your child withdraws, experiences panic attacks, cannot participate in day-to-day activities, has a loss of sleep, or changes their eating habits, reach out to your healthcare provider or a therapist for additional support.
we are amazon affiliates which means if you purchase something using one of our links we may receive a small percentage