Talking to Kids About Gun Violence

Talking to Kids About Gun Violence

Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton, Sandy Hook. Aurora. San Bernardino. Orlando. Las Vegas, Parkland. Pittsburgh. At schools, movie theaters, bars, concerts, festivals, stores, churches. 

Riverside, August 12, 2019 a wild and brazen gun battle on the CA 215 freeway left a young CHP officer dead, two first responders injured and several passersby caught in the crossfire.  

Each time there’s a mass shooting or tragic act of gun violence, —and it seems to be happening now more than ever—we find ourselves having trouble finding the words to explain to our children, yet again, why it happened, and why it continues to happen.

Kids need to be reminded that you’re looking out for them. Reassuring our children in these turbulent and violent times is a paramount question for parenting.

So how should you talk about gun violence to your child? You have to figure out before you talk to them what story you want them to tell themselves. With young children, parents should keep their stories simple. These stories should reinforce parents’ beliefs. 

Perhaps, parents want their children to know that a bad man hurt people. Maybe parents want their children to know that someone with a serious illness felt angry and hurt people.

Give a one-sentence story to anyone under 6. Focus on the positives, such as the heroes of the story. Children in this age group will ask many more questions and parents need to decide how much they want to share.

Parents should prevent their children from seeing pictures or the news because the images will stick with children longer than words. If children do see pictures, parents should show their children positive photos to counteract the negative.

Teenagers will expect more. They are looking for honesty and solutions. This generation believes in collaboration and social justice. And they are going to ask ‘What are you doing, to combat violence?’  Answer and then ask, what ‘you’ are doing and what can we do together. 

Above all, parents still need to listen to their children’s feelings and display empathy. Let your child talk and listen, really listen—to them. Think about how you feel after talking through scary situations with someone you trust. You feel safer and more assured. By talking about it they’ll cope better.

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