In recent years, many parents have found themselves struggling to talk to their children about school shootings. Perhaps there was a school shooting in your area recently. Or maybe your child has heard about shootings in other towns through the news.

Either way, they’re turning to you with their questions and fears. You want to help them stay calm and ease their anxiety. But you also don’t want to come off as though you’re dismissing their concerns.

Navigating these conversations can be quite challenging. But the way you respond to your child’s worries can have a strong influence on their outlook. Here’s how to handle these tough conversations and give your child the support they need.

Let Your Child Share Their Feelings

First, it’s important to simply let your child talk about what’s on their mind. Your first instinct might be to immediately reassure them that statistically, they’re perfectly safe. Yet, while there is a time and place for this conversation, you need to validate your child’s feelings first.

Allow them to say how they feel, and comfort them. You may want to tell them you understand exactly why they’re scared, and it’s perfectly natural to feel this way.

Talk About the Odds

After your child has has a chance to speak up about their feelings, you may want to gradually shift into talking to them about the very slim odds that their school will ever be targeted in a shooting.

Explain that while incidents like this make headlines, they are still very, very rare. If your child is old enough to understand statistics, you might want to look up some specific stats to share with them.

Find Ways to Take Action

Sometimes, a child’s fear is rooted in helplessness. They might have a deep sense that something is wrong, but they feel frustrated and scared about their inability to do anything about it. Depending on how old your child is, you might want to talk to them about ways you can take action to address school shootings.

The two of you may want to pitch in together with local activist efforts. Look into organizations and non-profits in your area that host family-friendly events or provide age-appropriate ways for kids to get involved.

Audit Your Household’s “Media Diet”

Although school shootings are quite rare, your child’s fears might be exacerbated by what they see online and on TV. If you typically watch the news in the evening, you might want to be careful about what you watch while your child is around. Do you listen to talk radio in the car while driving your child to school?

Consider switching to music instead. You may also want to talk to your child about designating screen-free hours at home, like dinner time.

Reassure Them That You’re Here for Them

Tell your child that you’re always there to listen when they’re feeling upset about this issue. You should also let them know that if they have a classmate or friend who says or does something concerning, they can report it to you. You will take it seriously and help them get in touch with another adult who can take action.

If you’ve had several conversations with your child about this issue already, and they’re still feeling scared, you may want to look into working with a therapist. You can book sessions for you and your child, or for your child to attend solo.

Are you or your child struggling to cope with a fear of school shootings? Working with a therapist can help. Reach out to us today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.

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