Talking to kids about something as horrifying as school shootings is incredibly difficult, because adults can barely comprehend the violence of a school shooting. You may wonder how to bring up this topic -- or whether your should broach this topic with your preschooler at all. If you decide to talk about this, it's important to do it in a way that is truthful but without frightening your child. If there has been a school shooting or if people have discussed this within earshot of your child, she will likely have questions, even though she is in preschool. She may worry about safety at the school she will be attending in kindergarten and elementary school. And most probably, she will be more worried than she lets on. As difficult and horrifying as this is for parents, it is even more so for a child, because her image of a safe, little world has just been destroyed.
1Explain only as much as your preschooler can understand. That means don't lie to her, but only give her a basic explanation of what happened. It is best not to go into the details for this age group. Try to keep her away from TV and radio news reports as much as possible. Another option if your child is interested in the news is to find kids news programs or "newspapers", like Scholastic News, that will make your preschooler feel like he knows what's going on, but it's portrayed in a much less alarming fashion and geared to young kids. The KidScoop website can also give you resources and news geared to kids. Another option is just to keep kids away from news altogether and let them watch family friendly animal or puppet shows on television.
2Tell your preschooler about safety measures schools are taking to keep kids safe, like metal detectors and not allowing any weapons on school property. Emphasize that what happened is a rare and isolated incident. It's all over the news because it simply just does not happen very often. As a matter of fact, the odds of physical harm happening to a child at school has decreased since the early 1990's. Although the decrease is small, only about two percent, it's still progress.
3Discuss your own feelings about the school shooting incident. While it's tempting to want to be seen as superhuman by your kids, immune to fear or distress, it's actually good for kids to realize that adults have fears, too and must learn to cope with them, explains KidsHealth. Allow your kids to share their feelings, and also share yours as well -- to a reasonable degree. At the same time, remember that it's a fine line and you also have to help kids feel safe. No one ever said that parenting was easy.
- If a school shooting has recently happened in your area and you are having a difficult time coping with the questions and issues that occur, seek help. A grief hotline or a grief counselor can help you deal with your feelings about the incident, which will help you be to be emotionally present for your child's many questions and fears.
- There's no need to discuss this subject with preschoolers unless they see some sort of coverage on it. If they know nothing about school shootings, you don't need to be the one to enlighten them. However, if your preschooler asks you, or suddenly seems fearful of school, he may have heard something and it's time to sit down and figure out what's going on.