How to Talk to Kids About Gun Violence & School Shootings

empty hallway at a high school following the threat of a school shooting

It’s hard to know how to talk to kids about gun violence and school shootings. Today, in our very own city of Savannah, GA, there was what appears to have been a hoax linked to a purported situation at one of our high schools. This disturbing false report of a school shooting created utter chaos for students, parents, school faculty & staff, the media, and law enforcement.

Because so many school shootings are tragically real, it is understandable that we all take any threat extremely seriously. Waters Edge wants to take this opportunity to help you discuss these situations with your kids. We know it is difficult, and it’s beyond devastating that we even have to have these conversations. But we are here to help.

row of empty desks in a classroom after the threat of school shooting

How to Talk to Kids About Gun Violence & School Shootings

Each time there is a mass shooting—and unfortunately it seems to be happening now more than ever—we find ourselves having trouble finding the words to explain to our children. Why did it happen, and why does it continue to happen?

So how should you talk about gun violence to your children? Here are some ideas.

talking with kids about mass shootings

Be Sure Your Child Knows You’re Doing Everything to Keep Them Safe

The bottom line is that we can never predict or escape all danger. Not for ourselves, and not for our children. But your kids need to know that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe. Speak to them in terms they understand. Assuring your child that you will never knowingly put them in a dangerous situation and letting them know that their safety is a priority helps to give them a sense of security.

Older children need to hear this too. Let them know that their safety is your priority. As parents, we are doing everything in our power to keep them healthy and safe.

Do Not Let the Media Do the Talking

The news is everywhere we turn. On the television, on our phones, on the radio. But you do not want your child to absorb too much of what’s being shown there—especially if you have younger children.

It is important that YOU explain the situation to your child. And no one knows your children better than you do, so approach it in a way you know they will understand. There does not need to be a detailed account. Just an acknowledgement that something really awful happened, and that they can come to you with questions and their feelings about it.

Make Sure Your Children Understand Gun Safety

If you have guns in your home, it is your responsibility to teach gun safety. Keeping all firearms under lock and key is also imperative, but it does not automatically prevent gun tragedies. We recommend keeping all guns hidden and unloaded with the bullets separated from the firearms as well. Here are key safety measures* to explain to your children about guns:

  1. Never touch a gun by yourself.
  2. Only mommy and daddy/grownups use guns.
  3. Keep curiosity away by being straightforward and explaining the guns are locked away and they will never be able to crack the lock. Lock down your kid’s curiosity!
  4. Seriously explain the differences between real and toy guns and the consequences for real.

talking with teens about gun violence

Allow Your Child to Share Their Thoughts

It is important for your child to feel safe coming to you with their thoughts and fears on this issue. Let them give their opinions. For older children, this may become a political discussion. Really listen to them and validate their thoughts. For younger children, they may just be afraid.

Allow them to express that and acknowledge that those feelings are ok. All we can do as parents in these horrible situations, is to give our children a safe space to discuss, question and feel all the emotions that come along with gun violence.

If You Need More Support

If you or your child – or your family as a whole – need more support in dealing with gun violence and the tough conversations, please give Waters Edge a call. We have therapists on staff who can help you navigate these extremely difficult times with your children. Call us at 912.319.5552 or email us today. We are here for you.