Talking to Children About Violence

How do I talk to my children after recent shootings?
As a nation we have faced two major shootings in two weeks, one racially motivated at a store in Buffalo, NY and most this week at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX.  Many of us are watching the news and our children may be exposed over and over to traumatic events.  Sometimes children hear about the events outside of the home and may be struggling with feelings of sadness, helplessness, fear, and confusion. 

It can be difficult for parents to talk with children about something as horrible and senseless as a school shooting or racial violence.  However, avoiding these conversations can mean that your child is struggling with these feelings and questions on their own. Therefore, it is critical to make time to talk with your children, find out what they know and how they feel about the events.  Let them know their feelings are ok, help them understand what happened in language they can understand, and reassure them that they are safe. 

Tips to remember when talking with your children:
  • Remain calm, reassuring, and curious.  That said, it is ok to let your child know that you have feelings about what happened and that you have learned ways of coping with those big feelings like talking to loved ones, going for a walk, etc.  It is also ok to take a break if you feel overwhelmed or don’t know what to say. 
  • Allow time and encourage your child to talk about what happened and ask questions. Let them know it is ok for them to feel sad or scared or whatever they feel.
  • The conversation may vary depending on your child’s age.  Using a calm voice and language they can understand is important.  Show and express care and love for them and let them know they can express any worries with you.
  • Make sure to listen for misinformation and provide concrete and accurate information
  • Reassure your child that they are safe
  • Limit media exposure.  If your older child or adolescent is watching the news, watch with them together and share your thoughts and feelings about it.
  • Keep routines.  This gives children a sense of normalcy
  • Try to find time over the weekend to spend time together as a family
  • Keep an eye out for changes in behavior such as crying, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, isolating themselves.  Explore ways to help children feel safe in your home and school.


Resources in Response to the Robb Elementary School Shooting
 In response to the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde Texas, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has developed resources to help children, families, educators, and communities navigate what they are seeing and hearing, acknowledge their feelings, and find ways to cope together. These resources include:

Resources - National Mass Violence and Victimization Resource Center 

Disaster Helpline

SAMHSA has a Disaster Distress Helpline – call or text 1-800-985-5990 (for Spanish, press “2”) to be connected to a trained counselor 24/7/365.