In a perfect world, our children would not have to learn about gun violence. However, the recent tragedy in Uvalde, Texas and continued mass shootings around the country have reminded us that this is not possible. Between hearing peers and teachers talk about it, seeing stories on the news, and practicing active shooter drills in school, kids are aware more than ever about the reality of gun violence. For many children, this topic sparks anxiety and fear; and thus, it is crucial to have open and honest conversations with your children.
It is essential for kids to have a safe space where they feel comfortable processing their thoughts and feelings related to these tragedies. Simply allowing a child the time and space to talk through their emotions will help them feel safer. Really listen to what your child is saying and ask them questions about their feelings so you can provide necessary support.
These conversations will look different depending on the age and developmental stage of your child, so keep this in mind when preparing for discussions on gun violence. With younger children, use simple language to explain what happened and why, and how they can keep themselves safe. Elementary and middle school aged children typically would not benefit from long conversations about the social causes and effects of gun violence. However, with older children and teens it may be helpful to talk about facts surrounding the event and larger societal issues.
While it is important to remind children that you are doing everything in your power to keep them safe and away from dangerous situations, many kids will recognize that it is not possible to guarantee safety in every situation. For this reason, talk to them about how to recognize warning signs and report any concerning behavior, and about how to keep themselves safe if the unthinkable happens. Additionally, make sure your child understands the lethality of guns and review safety rules, especially if you are a gun owner.