How to Talk to Your Teen About School Shootings

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School shootings over the past few years have left many people feeling unsettled about school safety. For high school students, the notion that one of their peers could come to school armed and ready to kill is definitely a frightening fact. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk to teens about any concerns they may have, even when there hasn’t been a recent school shooting incident.

Teens Soak Up Information About Tragedies

The internet, social media, and TV coverage give teens ample opportunities to learn about school shootings.

It’s not unusual for teens to minimize the impact that hearing about a tragedy has on them when speaking to adults, while privately conducting research and discussing the tragedy with peers.

It’s important not to invest too much energy into trying to shield an adolescent from hearing the news. Most teens will gain the information from somewhere anyway, and it’s best if they get the facts. Otherwise, they may be prone to believing rumors about an incident that could instill unnecessary fear into them.

Here are some tips on talking to your teen about school shootings:

  • Ask your teen how much she knows about school violence. Invite her to share her feelings and any concerns she may have. Validate your teen’s feelings.
  • Be willing to talk about your own feelings as well. Avoid trying to minimize your fears or feelings of sadness. Instead, discuss your feelings about the news.
  • Review the safety policies the school has in place. It’s normal for teens to wonder if a school shooting could take place within their school. Discuss any steps that you’re aware of that the school is taking to reduce the chances of a violent incident at your teen’s school.
  • Discuss steps your child can take to address safety issues. Encourage your teen to report any threats of violence or safety issues to school officials right away. Most perpetrators of violence have a history of making threats or talking about shooting people prior to the shooting.
  • Put the risk of being involved in a school shooting in perspective. School shootings receive massive media attention which can make students and parents believe that there is a high risk of violence. But in reality, the chance of your teen’s school being the target of a shooting is still very low. Teens face much greater risks each time they get behind the wheel or participate in contact sports.
  • Develop strategies to give back. Hearing stories of tragic events can incite feelings of helplessness. Finding a way to help can renew a sense of hope. Talk to your teen about ways to help people who have been impacted acts of violence. Consider partnering with a charity to help victims of violence by donating your time, money, or other services.
  • Encourage your teen to be proactive. Talk to your teen about helping prevent violence at school. This could mean joining a civil rights club at school or starting an anti-bullying campaign. Helping other people can assist teens in identifying how they can make a difference in the lives of other people by helping to prevent violence.
  • Look for warning signs that your teen may need professional help. Monitor your teen’s behavior and mood following any major tragedies like a school shooting. If your teen seems to fixate on learning more about the incident it could be a red flag that your teen needs help. Also, be on the lookout for anxiety which may include a refusal to go to school or a decline in interest in school activities. If you’re concerned about your teen’s ability to cope, speak with your teen’s doctor or a mental health professional.

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