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

Hope Surpasses Resilience as Burnout Predictor

In the past, resilience has been used as the main predictor for educator burnout – but not anymore. Our studies have shown that measuring individual and collective Hope levels is more accurate at predicting educator burnout.

Hope vs. Resilience

If Resilience and Hope are used as measurements, we need to understand their definitions and see how they differ.

Our Definition of Hope: the belief that tomorrow will be better than today, and that you have the power to make it so.

The Definition of Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

Already, we have a vastly different quality of life from these two definitions. While Hope provides a positive outlook on the future and a path for accomplishing that betterment, resilience simply states that recovery is possible if one has the capacity. Thus, resilience is only for those who already have a high capacity for it. We know that hardship reduces one’s ability to deal with stress and adversity without the proper strategies. Without Hope. So why would we lean on resilience as a predictor of burnout when it can diminish so quickly?

The Problem with Resilience

There is still something admirable in dealing well with crisis and returning relatively quickly to a pre-crisis state, like a rubber band. But, the more times rubber bands are stretched and returned to their pre-stretch state, the more likely that band will become less resilient over time and less likely to return to its ‘before’ condition. One teacher’s resilience today may be very different next year or even next month, and that difference will usually decline.

Resilience focuses on moving backward, to dealing with times of crisis so that we can return to our pre-crisis state. Moving backward doesn’t help anyone, especially if their pre-crisis state does not buffer from incoming crisis.

Not only is resilience likely to decline over time, but it puts an emphasis on trying to maintain a pattern, not change and improve it. We often discuss how creating new, healthier patterns through Hope work changes children’s lives, but what about teachers’ lives?

The Benefit of Hope

When you experience a crisis, Hope offers a way to improve your post-crisis circumstances. Resilience only sends you back to your pre-crisis circumstances.

Hope moves us forward. We have the power to make our tomorrow better than today, and certainly better than the yesterday resilience seems so fond of. Unlike resilience, Hope is more likely to stay steady or grow over time so if a teacher has measured hope levels, it is far easier to predict their risk for burnout.

The less Hope a teacher has, the more likely they will burn out. Even if a teacher starts as being highly resilient, that may not last. Our studies found that Hope acts as a buffer to crisis and adversity while resilience is only a way to hold out through the stress while still experiencing it full force, making the measurement less reliable over time.

Steadily improving one’s own circumstances builds upon itself. The longer a teacher has Hope, the more they will gain because it builds up, unlike resilience which takes away from itself. Over time, this makes Hope a much more reliable predictor.

Hope Reduces Turnover

The biggest indicator of teacher burnout is individual Hope, but the most significant school turnover predictor is collective Hope. If teachers have a hope community built in their school and feel collectively hopeful and supported by their school, they are far less likely to burn out. Reduced educator burnout also reduces staff turnover, creating a better place to work and learn.

Building a Hope Community Starts with You

Teachers, counselors, and school staff create Hope communities in their schools. My Best Me helps students with individual hope and helps teachers and schools with collective hope communities.

At Hope Rising SEL, we care about your students, and we care about you, too. Never forget, Hope is for everyone, and it starts with you.


Hope Rising SEL’s definition of Hope is making a difference in many schools and communities across the country.

If your school isn’t using My Best Me yet, we would love to help you bring Hope to your school. Our sales team is ready to answer your questions and demo My Best Me for you. Contact us to start spreading Hope in your school.