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With all of the violence in today’s schools and the nonstop media coverage that follows, it’s only reasonable to expect that your child might have questions. If your preschool-aged child comes to you with questions or concerns about violence in schools, it’s best to handle it as simply and as matter-of-fact as possible. Here are some guidelines for discussing school violence with very young children.
First things first, before you can truly provide the right answer, it’s important for you to find out why your child is asking about school violence in the first place. Did he see something on TV? Did she overhear a conversation among relatives or school staff? Was there perhaps something on the morning news on the radio? Then, once you have that answer, ask your child how he or she feels about what was overheard. When you can figure out if your child feels scared, nervous, apprehensive, or simply curious, you can better tailor your answer to your child’s needs.
After you’ve determined why your child is asking about school violence and how he or she feels about it, the very first thing you should do is reassure your child that he or she is safe. Tell your child that schools are very safe environments and that adults at school work very hard to keep kids safe. Explain the rules that are in place to help protect your child. For example, if you must ring a bell, enter a code, or swipe a card to enter the building, you can tell your child that the only people allowed inside the building are the people who are supposed to be there.
After you provide the necessary reassurance, tell your child you are available to talk. One of the best things you could possibly do is tell your child that any feelings are acceptable and valid, and it’s okay to feel scared, sad, or nervous. If your child has difficulty expressing himself when it comes to difficult situations like this, try to turn it into something creative. Read a book that may help your child open up, or even sit down with some finger paints and paper so your child can express his or her emotions through artwork. As long as your child can open up, you can help him or she feels better.
There’s no way to keep your child safe from all media, and there’s certainly no way to monitor what he or she overhears. However, you can do your very best to limit the amount of negative media and conversations at home. After your conversation with your child, keep an eye on his or her emotional state for a while. If he or she becomes withdrawn or suddenly seems anxious about going to school, it may be time to revisit the subject.
School violence can be terrifying for parents and children alike but being open and honest when talking about current events can help your child feel better. Reassure your child’s safety and set aside plenty of time to talk, then monitor your child’s wellbeing and ensure he or she feels safe.