On December 14, 2012, the unthinkable happened.
A gunman blazed his way through Sandy Hook elementary school, taking the lives of 26 people – including 20 children, and the adults who died trying to protect them.
Sandy Hook was not the first school shooting in the nation’s history, and it hasn’t been the last, but it seemed to shock the conscience of the nation in a profound way, perhaps because the victims were among the youngest.
Active shooter drills have been a part of the safety program for many years, even before Sandy Hook, alongside tornado drills and earthquake drills.
Between safety drills, television coverage of past and current incidents and conversations among peers are all bound to raise questions from children. What happened? Why? Could it happen to me? Am I safe?
Some ideas for talking to kids about gun violence:
Be honest. Answer questions honestly, with the age and maturity level of the child in mind. Allow them to take the lead, and listen to their questions carefully before responding. Pay attention to their non-verbal cues, especially in young children. They might need to draw pictures or act out what they are feeling using toys.
Reassure them that they are safe. Point out school safety features, like locked doors and resource officers. Reassure them that many adults – parents, teachers, police officers – are very committed to keeping them safe.
Take the opportunity to talk to them about how they can keep safe. Review safety drills. Remind them how important it is to remain calm and obey directions from teachers, especially in emergencies. Remind them, too, that if they “see something, say something.” If they see or hear anything that makes them uncomfortable about their safety, they should report it to a parent, teacher, counselor or other adult immediately.
For more ideas from the National Association of School Psychologists, please visit this link.