Yesterday after school, I picked up my two daughters from their "lockdown" at daycare. My oldest, nearly five, asked me why they were on lockdown. I shared what I knew, that a girl wanted to bring a gun to a school. Her immediate follow-up was the standard question of "Why?"
As parents, we must decide how much to tell our children about these events. When is it more than they can comprehend? I thought about this as I stared at my daughter yesterday, and came to the conclusion that I truly didn't know the answer to her, "Why?" For me, that was the hardest part.
So what I can offer you, aside from an extra hug tomorrow at drop-off, are some ways to talk to your child about our current domestic climate, if you choose to do so.
- For ECE Children, I recommend being succinct, if you are going to talk to them at all about this topic. Ask yourself how much they really need to know. For my daughter, I wanted to reassure our message to her that guns don't belong at school, and guns aren't in her school. Yet I also wanted her to feel safe about being away from us during the day. Talk to your child about what makes them safe at school. Who can they go to at school if they are feeling unsafe? Routine and structure help them feel protected when they are inside the ISDenver gate, and our goal is to continue doing so.
- For Elementary Age Children, we must normalize their emotions. If you have chosen to share details about the incidents that began yesterday, let them know they can feel scared, worried, anxious, and curious. It's okay to be honest that you too share in those emotions. As I recommend doing with our youngest learners, you must reassure them that their school is safe. Talk about the locked doors, the gates, and any other protocols that you think would help them feel secure. These learners may also want to know more details. However, I would limit exposure to TV, internet, or radio. Filter the information before you share it, as overexposure can stimulate their fears even more.
- For Middle School Age Children, you need to be honest without oversharing. They will want to know why, how, what's being done to stop it, what can they do to prevent it. Tell them what you may know, but don't make up facts. Let them talk, and give them a safe space to express these ideas and emotions. No emotion is silly and irrational if it is how they are feeling. Again, reiterate their safety, but also give them the added responsibility to be watchful of their surroundings and properly reporting anything suspicious.
Spend that extra individualized time with them today and tonight, as you may notice them desiring to be closer to you, and this is perfectly okay. You can't over comfort them.
Tomorrow, our learners will come back to school, some will not even know what today was about, while others will cling on to their parents a bit longer, fearful of separation. I want to ensure you that no matter how your child is choosing to process the situation, our entire staff will be there to support them from the moment they walk through our gates.
For more on how to talk to your children about school violence, please see these recommendations from the National Association of School Psychologists.
- school safety