Advice on How to Talk to Your Children About the School Shooting

As students return to the classrooms in the wake of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut, parents are wondering how to help their children understand and cope with this tragedy. In an interview on local ABC news station KSTP-TV, I shared tips on how parents can talk to their children about the school tragedy to help them feel safe and reassure them that they will be safe.

While parents’ natural reaction to Friday’s school shooting may be to keep their children home from school, the best thing to do is to continue on with your daily routines, which helps maintain a sense of stability for your child. If your child is clearly affected by the shooting, don’t try to divert their attention to other entertainment until you’ve talked to your child about how they are feeling and what they’ve heard about the school tragedy.

When talking to children about the shooting, parents should follow the child’s lead rather than overwhelm them with too much information. It’s important for parents to strike a balance between providing too much information and not enough. One thing to keep in mind to help manage this balance is not to give more information than what your child is asking for. Listen to your child’s thoughts and questions and address them as best you can, also taking into consideration your child’s age and level of mental and emotional maturity.

Parents also need to remember that schools are safe places for children and there’s a very small likelihood that this type of event will happen at your child’s school. The best thing parents can do is let your child know you are there for them to talk to at any time and reassure them that they are safe.

Abigail Gewirtz

About the Author

Abigail Gewirtz, Ph.D.

  • Professor, Department of Family Social Science and the Institute of Child Development
  • Principal Investigator, ADAPT
  • College of Education and Human Development (CEHD)
  • University of Minnesota

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