Talking to Children about School Violence
June 26, 2018
Talking about school shootings and school violence with children is extremely important, but often times, it’s not easy to do. The National Mental Health Association has some tips to guide parents through the difficult discussion.
Encourage children to talk about their concerns and express their feelings:
Some children may be hesitant to initiate the conversation, so you may want to prompt them by asking if they feel safe at school. When talking with younger children remember to talk on their level. For example, they may not understand the term “violence” but can talk to you about being afraid, or about a classmate who is mean to them.
Talk honestly about your own feelings regarding school violence:
It is important for children to recognize they are not dealing with their fears alone.
Validate the child’s feelings:
Do not minimize a child’s concerns. Let him or her know serious school violence is not common, which is why these incidents attract so much media attention. Stress schools are safe places. In fact, recent studies have shown schools are more secure now than ever before.
Empower children to take action regarding school safety:
Encourage children to report specific incidents (such as bullying, threats or talk of suicide) and to develop problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Encourage older children to actively participate in student-run anti-violence programs.
Discuss the safety procedures that are in place at your child’s school:
Explain why visitors sign in at the principal’s office or why some doors remain locked during the school day. Help your child understand that such precautions are in place to ensure his or her safety and stress the importance of adhering to school rules.
Create safety plans with your child:
Help identify which adults (a friendly secretary, trusted teacher or approachable administrator) your child can talk to if they feel threatened. Also ensure that your child knows how to reach you, another family member or friend in case of crisis. Remind your child they can talk to you anytime if they feel threatened.
Recognize behavior that may indicate your child is concerned about returning to school:
Younger children may react to school violence by not wanting to attend school or participate in school-based activities. Teens and adolescents may minimize their concerns outwardly, but may become argumentative or withdrawn.
Keep the dialogue going:
Make school safety a common topic in family discussions, rather than just a response to an immediate crisis. Open dialogue will encourage children to share their concerns.
Seek help when necessary:
If you are worried about a child’s reaction, or have ongoing concerns about his or her emotions, contact a mental health professional at school or at your community mental health center.
If you would like some additional advice on how to talk to your child or children about school shootings or if you think your child would benefit from talk about school violence with a trained professional, schedule an appointment with Prevea Behavioral Care by calling (920) 272-1200.