Kidpower’s Tips for How to Talk to Kids About School Violence

Instead of our regular fun activity suggestions for the weekend, we’re going to end this week with wise tips from an organization we strongly support. Kidpower is a local group that helps educate children, parents, schools, and other adults on how to use their own power to be safe and build confidence. In times of horrific news events, Kidpower’s response emails always help me feel a tad bit better because it gives me something to tell my children and tools to work on, instead of letting my anxiety run unchecked.

From today’s email, written by Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Founder and Executive Director:

News stories about school shootings often leave parents and children everywhere feeling overwhelmed with worry. Right after the shootings at Columbine High School, a six-year-old girl in a workshop at a private school asked me, “What if someone comes to our school and starts shooting everybody?” Along with all of the other adults in the room, I looked into her little face and felt ill that she even had to wonder about it.

Violence in schools becomes heartbreakingly and urgently on our minds each time a new tragedy takes place. The threat of violence looms over all children no matter where they live or what their family situation is. It is important to address the concerns of children as gun violence is occurring more frequently and is ever-present in the media. Although nothing works all of the time, the following suggestions can help children to feel less helpless and more prepared in the face of armed violence in schools.

Key tips included:

  • Be a Safe Calm, Person to Talk To
  • Make Sure it is Safe to Tell At School
  • Using role play to rehearse handling different emergencies, including potential violence in schools, can prepare children to react effectively and quickly — and to have their adrenaline work for them instead of against them.
  • Most children want to know what to do if the worst happens. It is less upsetting to imagine a plan than to keep imagining disaster. You can tell children, “The safest thing to do almost always if someone starts waving a gun or a knife or starts shooting is to get away right away as quickly and quietly as you can. You will almost always be safer if you keep running away even if the person with the gun tells you to stop. Even if the person is saying he or she will hurt someone else if you run, the best chance you have for helping that person is to run away and get help.”  This is useful advice for violence in general, not just violence in schools.
  • You can tell children that, “Sometimes kids like to joke or brag about having or using guns or bombs or about hurting animals or people. Most of the time, they are just pretending, but once in a while, they are not. If someone is talking like this, this person might have big problems and I want you to tell me about it as soon as you can.”

The post, including more tips with a greater explanation can be found on the Kidpower website.

My family has taken several Kidpower workshops, and while they are worth every cent, knowing how to react can’t always stop the gun from coming onto the school. Instead of merely wishing things would change, today my family is donating money to combat the gun lobby.

It’s worth noting that there was an attack today at a school in China. Many children were injured, but not one died. The attack in China involved a knife and not a gun, and while many children were traumatized and hurt, they all get to go home to their parents.

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