There are many things we can expect to comfort our kids about. Some of these issues include dealing with illness, coping with an injury, having big feelings, and even being bullied. As parents, we know these issues are going to come up.

When it comes to the epidemic of violence in our schools, parents have big feelings. We struggle enough with our own rage and sadness, that it can be difficult to talk to our kids about the topic of school shootings.

This article is to give ideas and options for how you can approach the discussion with your kids. In my 14 years of parenting, I’m tired of talking about this period. However, as long as it keeps happening, I’ll be there to listen and support my kids.

The elephant in the room

For most people that send their kids to public school, it’s nearly impossible to keep our kids in the dark about the horrific events that keep occurring in schools across the country. Although I personally don’t let my kids watch the news, they find out about it from their peers one way or another.

Even if their peers didn’t spread the latest news, it’s difficult to ignore the lockdown drills and periodic practicing for the worst-case scenarios. From the day we send our children to kindergarten, the dirty secret is in plain sight for them to see. No school is totally safe, no community is immune.

Talking about school shootings

Every time your child hears about a new school shooting, they are valid in worrying if their school could be next. Trying to gloss over the subject by dismissing their concerns is not helpful. Our children need to express their feelings, they desperately seek the comfort we as parents can provide.

How do we approach the conversation about violence in schools?

It starts with listening

After a school shooting, children may have questions, concerns, or fears that they want to talk about. It’s important to create a safe and supportive environment where children feel comfortable expressing their emotions and thoughts.

How to be a better listener

  1. Give your child your undivided attention, put your devices away
  2. Make eye contact
  3. Refrain from interrupting
  4. When your child is done speaking, follow up with open-ended questions
  5. Listen with an empathetic, and not a judgmental mindset

Ways to comfort you child after news of violence in schools

Validate their feelings

Children may experience a range of emotions after a school shooting. This could include feelings of sadness, fear, anger, and confusion. It’s important to let children know that their feelings are valid and normal.

How to address your child’s big feelings

If a child is feeling scared, you can provide reassurance and comfort. If your child is feeling angry, you can help them express their emotions in a healthy way. Let them feel their feelings without judgement. If you not sure on how to help, or feel like nothing you do or say is making a difference, don’t hesitate to find professional mental health assistance.

Offer age-appropriate explanations

When children have questions, explain what happened in a way that is appropriate for your child’s age and level of understanding. Avoid giving too much information or using language that may increase their fears.

Use simple language, and focus on the steps being taken to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Limit exposure to news

Exposure to graphic images or details of the shooting can be harmful to children’s emotional well-being. It’s important to limit their exposure to news and social media until they are ready to handle it.

Be aware of how you discuss the incident in your home. Sometimes children listen in on conversations when you aren’t aware they are nearby.

Talk about safety

Remind your children that they are safe and being protected. You can provide reassurance that there are many adults who are working to keep them safe.

When age appropriate, discuss specific safety procedures and protocols. All schools have emergency plans, make sure you are aware of what your school is doing to prevent violence.

Create a family plan

Make a plan with your child so that they know what to do if there is violence in their school. Check to make sure they know what to do if an emergency situation occurs.

Provide comfort

Wrap your children in your arms and give them a big hug. As parents, we yearn to do this the moment we learn about another school tragedy. Take the time to sit and cuddle with your child. Just being together will help both of you.

Engage in creative activities such as drawing or writing. Creating art is an effective way to help children express their emotions and cope with their feelings.

Practice mindfulness with your child to help them regain a sense of peace and calm. You could try guided meditations or simple yoga moves with them.

Seeking professional help when a child is struggling

If a child is struggling to cope with their emotions, and you feel like you’re in over your head, it’s time to seek additional resources. Mental health professionals can help guide you and your child as you try to navigate difficult emotions.

Monitor your child for the following:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Mood alterations
  • Change in school performance
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Inability to concentrate

If you notice your child is experiencing these changes find a licensed professional who can use their expertise to meet your child’s unique needs. There is no shame in getting help. Not addressing these issues in a timely manner can lead to more problems in the future.

Self care for parents

When parents are emotionally drained it makes it harder to support their kids. Take the time to do things that help you to recharge and refuel yourself. Watch a funny movie, read your favorite book, go for a walk outside. Taking care of yourself will make it easier to give your full attention to your children when they need it.

Final Thoughts

There’s no getting around it, this is a painful topic to comfort your kids on. Remember, you are not alone. Find someone to talk to about your feelings before approaching it with your child. Don’t feel like you have to discuss all the scary details. Be present with your child and let them guide the conversation. Listen. Listen. Listen. Be aware of when and where to seek additional resources and help.

I hope that someday we won’t have to have these discussions with our kids, but for the forseeable future, It appears to be something we can’t avoid. Hold your kids close.

For more information on how to use caring communication with your child check out my articles: love your children, trust yourself and using the five love languages to comfort your kids.

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