Talking to your child about school shootings, when you are scared, too

This post originally appeared in September of 2015. Unfortunately, tragically, it continues to be a relevant and persistent concern. 

Elaine’s* son was off and running on his first week as a high schooler at a big, urban school. He told her about his teachers, talked about the other kids, making friends, and other elements of the “stuff” of high school. By Wednesday he hinted that while he loved school, he could feel the over-crowdedness of its 3,000 students. On Thursday the after school chatter shifted from funny things teachers said to “our school really is overcrowded. That’s where the school shootings usually take place. I’m really worried that could happen here.”

Elaine was quiet. “What…aren’t you going to comfort me, tell me it won’t happen?” asked her son. But even before the words “oh you don’t need to worry about that” left her mouth, they dropped. She, too, had the same fears. “You got nothing for me?” he asked again.

But really, she didn’t. The news is full of more shootings and more lives lost.  The tragedy of it all can feel rampant and unstoppable.

“Hearing about shootings is frightening and unsettling, especially when they happen close to home,” says Dr. Margo Jacquot, PsyD Owner/Director of The Juniper Center, a trauma recovery center in Park Ridge, IL.  “As parents we do not need to bring up these events to our children, but many will hear about them in school or on the news they hear at home in the background. Even more than adults, kids need help figuring out how to handle the natural emotions that come with hearing tragic news.”


Jacquot shares some tips from the American Psychological Association on how to navigate reactions to these tragic events. And here is information about how to discuss tragic events with children.



*Not her real name.


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