Resources for Speaking to Children about School Shootings

Infuriated yet paralyzed…

Motivated for change yet helpless…

Mourning yet feeling guilty…

Thoughts and emotions running wild this morning.

For all of you mothers who almost didn’t do the normal school drop today, I am with you.

How are we expected to do this?!?

I worried about what they would hear at school and how it would make them feel without me there to allow them to properly talk through their emotions. I “what-if’d” the heck out of all the scenarios while trying to maintain calm and create normalcy.

“Who’s ready for a great day today?” and “What are you excited for?” would fall under my typical morning questioning. Not today. Today, they felt the shift in my emotions. Kids always do. They are aware when something is off even without knowing all the details.

In the end, extra-long hugs and kisses were given, and I sent them off to school without telling them about the tragedy that occurred in Texas. Was that the right choice? I don’t know…

I wasn’t ready.

I will never be ready.

How are we expected to do this?!?

I know that my children will be coming home with questions. I know I will have to take on the role of the reassuring parent when I am not reassured myself. I certainly do not feel qualified to speak to my children about this. Still, I am grateful for the resources available to help me prepare.

Gathered from the resources listed below, here are some ways to approach your conversations today:

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Sometimes we assume that our children know more than they really do. By asking open-ended questions, you can discern what they know and how they feel about the information they received. For example, “What did you hear about____? or “What do you think about this?”  Very Well Family has a list of open-ended questions you can use.

Give Age-Appropriate Responses

Your response will differ for each child depending on age and their own unique personalities. Younger children need simple, brief answers with the reassurance of safety. Older children may need help determining reality from fantasy. More concrete examples of what is ensuring their safety may be required.

Validate their Feelings and Reassure their Safety

Allow your children to express all their emotions and let them know it is ok to feel this way. Above all, we need to ensure that we make our children feel safe. Even when we are also feeling so vulnerable, reassuring their safety is essential for young children trying to grasp the reality of a tragedy like a school shooting.

Keep an Open Dialogue

Check back in to see how they are feeling. Observe their behavior and be available for questions that might come up in the next few weeks. Don’t push the issue but be aware that the emotions they are trying to process may show up in other ways such as temper tantrums, immature behavior, anger and sleeplessness.

Research and Educate Yourself

There are many helpful resources that can guide you as you through speaking to your children about school shootings. Below are just a few of the resources I found that have helped me prepare for the conversations I will be having with my own children later today. Please note – there are also resources below for parents. We all need to be mindful of our own distress and emotions that follow these tragedies.

National Association of School Psychologists -Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers

National Parent Helpline

Common Sense Media – How to Talk to Kids about School Shootings

American Psychological Association – Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting

Des Moines Mom Collective – Talking to Kids about Trauma

 

Kim Mortensen is the Co-Owner of Twin Cities Mom Collective. She has held many different titles throughout her life including, teacher, fundraiser, coach, and marketing professional. However, the titles held most dear to her are wife and mom. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Alex, and together they have three kids, Lucia (10), Ellia (9), and Decker (7). Kim is passionate about connecting women through the journey of motherhood, normalizing the hardships and challenges that come with the territory, and finding moments of joy and celebration in between.

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