In light of the most recent shooting that took place last week at a Sandy middle school, we felt it would be helpful for parents to know how to help their kids feel safe and also how to talk to your kids when tragedies like this happen.
Often times parents think it is safer to shelter their kids from this information, especially if it didn’t happen at your school, in your district or in your state. However, talking to your kids about these tragedies opens up the opportunity for you to talk to your kids about whether they know what they should do if something like this did happen in their school. What is the procedure that their school has in place, where would they go, who would they call, and where would they meet you? Just having this information and a plan in place can reduce our student’s anxiety immensely.
Help your kids to understand that there are certain things that they can do that are in their control and other things that are outside of their control. They will not be able to predict whether someone is going to come to their school with a weapon and shoot someone; however, they can be alert and can report any suspicious behavior to an adult. It is also important to teach your kids what they should do if one of their friends shows them a weapon or talks about bringing a weapon to school. Social media exposes our kids to a lot of videos, posts and ideas that using weapons is a joke, bullying is funny and that physically harming someone is comical. Talk about the consequences that the shooter faces and how much one act can impact so many lives. Too often our kids believe that shooting or harming someone is temporary just like in the video games. They may not realize the seriousness of their actions.
Kids need to understand the seriousness of their words, actions and behaviors. Be aware of what your kids are looking at on-line and have conversations about what they’re watching so they understand how videos are different than real life. It is very easy for our young people to hide behind their words when they are delivering it from an electronic device. Teach them that their words can hurt to the point of causing someone to want to commit suicide or to retaliate against them and their friends for their bullying and hateful words. Teach your kids how to meaningfully express their feelings and emotions, so that they can demonstrate anger and frustration in a healthy manner and not a way that could harm others or themselves. Check in with your kids to see how they are doing in school, not only academically, but socially too. Meet their friends, talk to their friends, get to know their friend’s parents. It is important to be on the same page and to make sure that your kid’s friends and their families have the same morals and values that you are teaching your kids. Make sure that not only your kids, but their friends feel comfortable talking to you. If you can openly talk to your kids without judgement and listen without interruption or lecturing, you will find that you will get much more information and your kids won’t be afraid to talk to you.
Education and communication are the most important tools in helping our young people to feel safe and secure in their world, it also helps us to understand their struggles and frustrations. If they can’t talk to you, you can’t help them or get them the help they need.