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How To Talk To Your Kids About Gun Violence
PHOTO BY /SHUTTERSTOCK
  • The recent horrifying news of elementary students and teachers being killed at a school shooting shocked the world. For many young parents, it is likely the first major gun violence-related event that has happened. 

    The last major US school shooting incident happened in 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The recent school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas happened on May 24, 2022, taking the lives of 19 children and two teachers.

    Here are five reminders when talking to your child about the recent news.

    1. Don’t let the TV do all the talking.

    If your kids are online, that includes TikTok and YouTube as well. Kids can easily look up news coverage from around the world. Chances are, they probably have. 

    Parents quotes parenting expert and GIT Mom (Get It Together, Mom) founder Eirene Heidelberger saying, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the more repeated and prolonged exposure to TV and media images the more anxiety this creates.

    “Your child’s awareness is growing and it’s imperative that you explain the basic facts about what happened; not TV or social media. Don’t go into gory detail, but don’t pretend that your child isn’t aware that something’s amiss in the world.”

    2. Repeat the obvious and make space for their emotions.

    On that note, you will do well to spell out to your child that the recent shooting happened in the US. If your child is educated in the Philippines or outside of the US, this fact can provide proper context.

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    This can be a reminder that while they are far from the incident, it does not automatically mean “they don’t need to worry”.

    RELATED: Playing 'Violent' Video Games Won't Necessarily Make Your Child A Violent Person

    Very Well Mind says when explaining the ongoing war in Ukraine that “Rather than urging them to keep their feelings inside or manage them on their own, [family therapist] Nick Koontz, MS, LMFT says give them permission to express themselves to you. 

    “Acknowledge that it’s okay to be afraid of what’s happening…” This piece of advise can be applied to our Filipino context as we follow the news on Uvalde, Texas shooting.

    3. Assure your kids that you are doing your best to keep them safe.

    It’s okay to remind your kids that you are always keeping them safe. You can overemphasize this because kids always need to be reminded of this.

    You can say: “We will never take you anywhere or put you in any place where there is danger. That is our primary job as parents, to protect you. We will always keep you safe,” writes Parents.

    Age is not a factor in reminding children about safety. Both older and younger children need to hear this reminder as “vigorously,” says Parents.

    4. Be age-appropriate with your discussion.

    Younger children will likely not ask about gun safety and gun laws. Clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD says “Prior to age 12, focus on how you as parents will keep them safe. From 12 to 15 or 16, you can talk about the issues in larger society, how this is wrong and immoral to take another’s life and to use guns inappropriately.

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    “In older adolescents and young adults, it is important to discuss the social/political and moral issues about gun violence. These age breakdowns follow the different stages of cognitive development in children and young people and when their brain can actually think about the issues.”

    If your child asks about local gun rights and laws, don’t be afraid to say “I’m not sure. Let’s look it up together.”

    5. Allow your children to speak and ask.

    The best place to start your discussion is by asking what they have seen or heard, whether you are talking about the Uvalde, Texas shooting or any other major violent event.

    Set aside time and your devices to show your children that you are listening to them too, not just talking. 

    RELATED: You Need to Carefully Monitor Your Child's TV Habits

    “Let your child talk and listen—I mean really listen to them. Think about how you feel after talking through scary situations with someone you trust, says Heidelberger. 

    “You feel safer and more assured, right? By talking about it they’ll cope better."

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