Gun violence is nothing new in America, but devastating events like the Parkland school massacre can make it difficult to know how to talk to your children about it all. Gun violence isn’t a child-friendly topic, but it’s our job as parents to be open and honest with our kids, no matter their age. Hopefully in doing so, parents can assuage their child’s fears while at the same time giving them the opportunity to process these terrifying occurrences. Here are some easy steps you can take when discussing gun violence.
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Tell them you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe. First and foremost, children of all ages want to know they’re safe. Do what you can to let them know that you’ll do everything in your power to protect them. This comforting reassurance will go a long way toward making them feel better.
Let them know they’re safe at school. While even one school shooting is too many, let your kids know that they’re still rare. With younger children, get them to focus on the fun things they do at school, retaining their love of education and association with school as a safe space. With older children, discuss the school’s policies and talk through the procedures with them.
Talk to them about gun safety. A conversation about gun violence is a great time to establish, or review, your family’s gun-safety policy. Since many families keep guns in the house, the opportunity to be around guns for some kids is common. But regardless of whether you have a weapon, let your kids know that guns shouldn’t be touched if found, and they should always find an adult who can determine the best thing to do.
Have an active-shooter plan in place. Just like every family should have a gun-safety plan, they should also have an active-shooter plan. Stress to your children that in a dangerous situation, it’s best to follow the directions of the adult in charge. If the child is for some reason alone in the event that something were to happen, encourage them to run and escape or seek shelter if that isn’t possible.
Allow them to ask questions. Children of all ages should be given a platform to ask questions. In responding, be as honest as their ages dictate, tapering your answers depending on their maturity level.
Tailor your responses based off the child’s age. Of course, the older the child, the more in depth this conversation could go. While you might not want to talk to a 4-year-old about the political ramification of stricter gun legislation, this might come up with a tween or teenager.