As educators, parents, and caregivers, talking with our kids about school threats is challenging. We also know that having these conversations is very important.
Engaging in honest and age-appropriate conversations is essential, because it allows us to learn how our kids feel and what they think. It ultimately reassures their sense of safety.
We know schools remain among the safest places for students. School leaders, educators, and staff members take their responsibility in promoting safe campuses and addressing safety concerns very seriously.
Included are some helpful tips for thinking through how to have these conversations with our children.
Be Honest, Brief, and Simple
Be honest about the situation, but don’t give more details than needed. Children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their schools and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Help your kids by asking questions. It is that open dialogue that comforts them. Ask your kids what makes them feel safe. Ask your kids what they know, then fill the gaps with facts.
A way to explain this to younger children might be:
“The police were looking for someone who needed help. They were worried she could have hurt herself or someone else. Until they found her, we kept kids at home to ensure everyone was safe.”
Listen to Questions
Let your children ask questions. Give space to let them talk and listen to their feelings. Don’t be surprised if your children don’t have any questions or concerns — often, children will quickly return to their typical routines.
Limit Exposure to Details
Limit exposure to details and media coverage. Adults should also be mindful of the content of conversations they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers. Continued exposure to media can increase anxiety and fear for adults and children. For younger children, each time they see the continued news story, it can feel like a new event.
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