School Shootings: Your Follow Up Questions Answered

Yesterday was one of the saddest days in our nation’s history.  As we wake up today we’re still left with so many unanswered questions.  And heartache.  My heart truly hurts as a mom.  I can’t imagine, I don’t want to imagine, what these families are going through.

I wrote the post School Shootings: How To Talk With Your Kids About Unthinkable Tragedy shortly after I learned about the massacre at Sandy Hook.  I know a lot of you are out there having these difficult conversations this weekend with your kids.  I feel for you and am right there with you having the same gut wrenching talks at my house.  I’ve gotten a few follow up questions from my last post, and I wanted to share with you my answers to help you along your journey.

Should we let our young kids watch the news related to the shooting?

To be honest, I have purposefully avoided television news since the shooting occurred.  It’s not good for my mental health.  It’s just too overwhelming.  I stay up to date on the news via the internet and only from reputable news organizations.  So, my opinion would be don’t let your young kids watch television news about this tragedy.  It’s pretty scary and graphic and you have no control over what is being shown to them.  As you know, once they see something on television it can’t be unseen.  On the other hand, if there is a newspaper article or internet post you think would be suitable to share with your child then take some time to read it with them and then talk about it.  It’s not that kids shouldn’t know the news surrounding this event, it’s that they shouldn’t be consumed by it in the way that television news has a way of doing.

My child is in kindergarten (first grade, second grade, etc.).  Aren’t they too young to know about this?  I want to maintain their innocence as long as possible.

I agree completely!  I want to maintain the innocence of my children too!  But sadly, if they are school age (kindergarten or older) they are going to find out about this tragedy from someone and probably by Monday morning.  As a parent you’d much rather it be from you than from someone else.  The exceptions would be if your children are homeschooled, don’t participate in activities with other children, and you don’t have television or internet access in your home.  None of that applies at my house, so I’ve discussed this shooting with my second grader, seventh grader, and tenth grader.  My four year old is the only one who escaped having to learn about this because she is a) in preschool, b) on winter break until January, and c) not developmentally capable of understanding this in my opinion.  As the parent it is ALWAYS your choice whether or not you want to tell your children anything.  But my advice is that if they are old enough then you should tell them about it before they hear it from someone else.

Is it the right time to talk with them about safety plans or does that make it seem too scary?

Yes, this is exactly the right time.  So many teachers and students lives were saved yesterday because they followed their safety plans.  When talking with my kids, I asked them about the safety drills they had at their school and we agreed that this type of incident is why those plans have to be in place.  It was a simple and short part of our conversation, but it helped them see the value of practicing these safety drills and listening to the instructions of their teachers during emergencies.

Do you have any advice to share from talking to your kids about this tragedy?  Do you have any questions?  Feel free to share below. 

For more information visit my other posts in this series, School Shootings: How To Talk With Kids About Unthinkable Tragedy and School Shootings: The Sad Reality of Mental Health Care For Children.

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About Dr. Polly Dunn

Child clinical psychologist, wife, and mom of four blogging about her 'Perfectly Imperfect' parenting solutions.

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