How to Talk to Children About School Shootings

At the epicenter of school shootings, lives have been forever changed and trauma has become part of those communities. The effects of these shootings can also be felt far beyond the epicenter. They have brought on a lot of stress and anxiety for American parents. It is no surprise that the stress and anxiety that adults feel are also felt by children. 

It is important to realize that children are very much aware of current events AND most schools are having “active shooter drills”. This topic is highly visible to children and we need to help them manage their feelings around this topic. 

How can you talk to children about school shootings?  

  1. Start the conversation: The hardest part is starting the conversation. You may feel the desire to avoid this topic but in reality, discussing school shootings can help children feel less anxious. Ask your child what they already know about school shootings then allow them to guide the conversation and ask questions.
  1. Normalize the feelings: It is important to normalize the feelings they are having. It is completely normal for them to feel anxious, sad, and/or scared. Allow them to explore those feelings in a safe place. 
  1. Talk about safety: Let your child know that school shootings are actually very rare. Reiterate that schools have taken appropriate measures to help children stay safe. Without getting graphic, ask them what plans are in place to keep them safe at school. They may answer fire drills, active shooter drills, tornado drills, etc. 
  1. Connect with the community for support: Anxiety and fear can make children more reclusive and less sociable. Remind your children of the people within your community that helps keep them safe. Teachers, coaches, cross guard, police, camp counselors, etc. These are the people within the community that are there to keep them safe.  

Restoring Hope

Hope is the belief that tomorrow will be better than today and that you have the power to make it so.”

During times of high stress, anxiety, and/or adversity students may lack hope. Lack of hope can affect willpower which in turn can make it hard for children to self-regulate. The outcome can be explosive outbursts and impulsive actions. 

Dr. Chan Hellman, Ph.D. has studied hope extensively and believes it is the key to social-emotional well-being. Hope is a way of thinking and CAN be taught.  

What he has found to be the three key components to hope. 

  1. Set goals
  2. Identify Pathways: the ability to identify pathways toward goals (problem solve) and Find ways around obstacles.
  3. Cultivate willpower: the ability to sustain motivation to continue on the pathway in order to achieve that set goal.

In increasing numbers, educators in classrooms nationwide are seeing more and more children exposed to adversity, stress, and trauma. The impact of this trauma on the learning environment is felt throughout the hallways of schools as students struggle with academic performance, disruptive behaviors, and emotional insecurity.

Hope is the answer for the students, classroom, district, and communities. 

(READ MORE on the science of Hope)

Helping Children Transition into Summer

4 Ways To Help Children Transition To Summer

  1. Make a summer vacation list: “Summer Bucket List”(free printable)

Get everyone together and write a list of things you all want to do over the summer, giving everyone a chance to communicate what they are most excited about. This is a great time to promote positive communication AND get everyone excited about what’s to come. Your summer list can be filled with things as simple as movie night, picnic in the park, drive-in movie, camping, making popsicles, etc. 

2. Maintain routine 

Schools are out and that may mean less structure to the day for some. That being said, it is important to keep a little routine and maintain a lite version of your school year routine. This can help make it easier to adapt to changes. 

3. Balance activity and down time

For some, summertime can be filled with trips and summer camps BUT don’t feel the pressure to keep busy. Summer is a great time to slow down and enjoy the downtime. 

4. Staying Connected 

Staying connected is one of the most important parts of transitioning into summer. Children thrive in social interaction and being with friends. Before year’s end try to gather classmate contact information and try to make plans for the summer. You can coordinate a class outing mid-summer. Nurturing social interaction and connection will help your child thrive when they return to school. 

How to stay connected over summer:

  • Make sure to collect contact information before school ends
  • Plan a multi-family field trip (with classmates)
  • Keep your eye out for local events 
  • Plan meetups and get-togethers
  • Send a postcard if you are traveling