After hearing the devastating news from Uvalde about the shooting death of 19 fourth graders and their teachers, as well as the many other incidents of recent violence, it is clear that the United States is stunningly inept at protecting kids from gun violence. In the US there are nearly 400 million firearms owned by citizens (almost half of all of the firearms in the world) and children are more likely to die from gun violence than any other high income country. Additionally, guns are now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the US.
Hearing these stories and statistics can be very scary for children and parents alike. Just hearing about it brings up an array of emotions including sadness for the victims, fears for your own and your children’s safety, anger and frustration about gun laws and the easy access to guns in the US,, and maybe grief or helplessness at what feels like an inability to do anything to create change on this issue.
Helping our kids process these complex emotions while still maintaining a sense of safety and confidence in their world is an important task in our current climate.
In this article in Psychology Today called “How to Talk With Our Kids About Gun Violence,” Dr Eugene Bersin MD, MA, provides helpful guidelines for talking to kids of all ages about gun violence.
Some ideas include:
- Control your own anxiety– it is ok and even helpful to share your sadness about the event. But kids, especially young kids, will feel more distressed about their parents’ reactions than about the actual event.
- Use self care measures to help yourself calm down (such as exercise, meditation, talking to other adults to get their perspective, and taking a break from the news). You will be in a better position to talk to your kids about scary things if you feel calm yourself.
- Limit exposure to media about these events–This is healthier for everyone and important for younger children especially. They should not watch coverage of the events, but if they have seen or heard things about it, allow them to talk about their emotions and ask questions.
- Expect repeat questions and concerns–This is how children process things.
- Be patient.
- Reassure them that they are safe. We obviously cannot guarantee that nothing will happen, but statistically it is still unlikely. Younger kids do not need to hear all of the statistics, nor would it have much meaning for them. They do want to hear that the adults in their life are there for them. And having a feeling of safety will benefit them more than going through the world always worried about the possible dangers
- Remind them that there are many good people in the world. Encourage to see the helpers and the people doing good things
- Talk about feelings of anger and how to manage it–introducing at a young age that it is okay to feel anger but we all need to be working on how we express it. And that expressing it through violence is never a solution.
- Let them talk about their emotions and worries–do not judge or try to talk them out of these feelings. Let them know it is okay to feel whatever they are feeling
- Talk to your kids about gun safety rules–Even if you do not have guns in your house, kids should still understand the safety rules about gun use, storage, and access.
Additionally, activities such as yoga and meditation can be very grounding for kids. You can view our Movement and Mindfulness classes on our You Tube channel for either K-5th graders or for 6-12th graders. If you are interested in a group or individual yoga or meditation class with one of our Wellness Center instructors, please contact us.
Check out these other resources below to learn more.
How To Talk To Kids About Gun Violence
Supporting Families: Young Children and Gun Violence
What to say to kids about school shootings to ease their stress