Talking to Your Kids About the School Shooting

I got so teary this morning watching the coverage of the school shooting in Ohio.  Sad for the victims, sad for the survivors, sad for the families, and sad for the gunman and his family.  It is tough to make sense of such violence, and tough too not to fear for the safety of the children in our own lives.  I wonder what it would be like to be a kid watching the news about such events as the shooting in Ohio?  While I felt the shock and grief over the shootings at Columbine High School (not far from where I was in graduate school at the time), I wasn’t a child.  Would my feelings have been different if I had been 8 or 12 or 16, knowing that the place I spent 7 hours each day could come under a similar attack?  Do kids these days (post-Columbine, post-911) feel safe at school like I did decades ago, or is that sort of security a thing of the past?

The American Psychological Association (APA) has posted some great tips on talking to your kids about these sorts of topics.  It can feel intimidating to talk about such things, but it is well worth the effort.  Kids almost always have thoughts about the events going on around them, and frequently have more insight, ideas, and solutions than we might guess.

Here are a few tips offered by APA:

  • Find times when they are most likely to talk: such as when riding in the car, before dinner, or at bedtime.
  • Start the conversation; let them know you are interested in them and how they are coping with the information they are getting.
  • Listen to their thoughts and point of view; don’t interrupt–allow them to express their ideas and understanding before you respond.
  • Express your own opinions and ideas without putting down theirs; acknowledge that it is okay to disagree.
  • Remind them you are there for them to provide safety, comfort and support. Give them a hug.

For the full tip sheet and more ideas about talking to kids in the aftermath of a school shooting, click here.