Crepeau-Hobson said it’s important to not make false promises and be honest, even if the chances of being involved in a school shooting are miniscule. Tell your kid, “Drills are scary, but they will help keep you safe in case something bad ever happens,” instead of, “This will never happen to you anyway, so don’t worry.”
She recommends checking out the National Association of School Psychologists’ resources for parents about talking to kids of all ages about violence in schools. Advice includes:
- Reassure kids that they are safe, but make sure to validate their fears and feelings.
- Make the time to talk. For your younger kids, communicating their thoughts may take the form of drawing or playing, not as a conversation.
- Tailor your explanations to be age appropriate. As your children enter middle and high school, welcome their thoughts and opinions on gun control and school safety.
- Review safety procedures with your kids, and help them identify an adult at school that they trust.
- Keep an eye on your child’s sleep patterns, appetite and anxiety after drills. Don’t be afraid to talk to a mental health professional for help, especially if your child has experienced past trauma or has special needs.
- Limit how much your younger kids see news about school shootings or other violent events on television.
- Maintain a normal routine, and encourage them to continue hobbies and activities.
She said schools and families should give as much advance notice as possible, and focusing on the “why” — they’ll keep you safe if the time comes — behind the exercises.