Parent Finds it Hard to Talk About School Shootings

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on March 21, 2018 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question: All of these school shootings that are happening are really scary to me as a parent. My nine-year-old came home yesterday and said that they had a lockdown drill at their school where he was shown how to use his desk turned on its side as a shield from bullets. I had no idea how to respond or talk to him about this. While I am glad our school takes safety seriously, I feel like I should be doing more at home to talk about this issue with my son. I could use some advice on where to start.

Answer: I am sad to acknowledge that this is now added to the many worries that we have as parents and that it creates anxiety for our kids. I feel for you as I am sure this was the last thing you wanted to have your little guy, and yourself, to be concerned about. I am glad you are looking for a way to talk with him about this.

First, when your child talks about school shootings and drills, simply ask how he feels when he thinks about these things. It is important for him to express these feelings. He may feel freer to open up if you share that you are also scared about this. This lets him know that his feelings are okay. It is okay not to have answers for why someone would come to a school to shoot people. We are all struggling to understand why.

Remind him that the school also has drills for fire and other safety situations. Show him your home fire alarm. Explain how preparation is important and that lives are saved because of it. We prepare for emergencies, but most often they don’t happen. Being prepared helps people not be as afraid because they have a plan. This way you are presenting realistic information that challenges the thought that schools are unsafe. 

Talking with him about the students that have protested the government response is not only a good lesson in democracy, but also helps students move from a powerless situation to one of having a voice and becoming instrumental in making change. Lastly, encourage him to always be aware when something someone says and does just doesn’t feel right. You can liken it to how animals have instincts and insects have antenna that alerts them to danger. When he senses that something is not quite right with a person, he needs to talk with you or a teacher about it.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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