Mom and toddler hugging.

How to Talk to Your Littles About Gun Violence

Published: 08/10/2021

As much as we all want the world to be sunshine and lollipops for our littles, the fact of the matter is that bad things happen. Awful things happen. Terrible things we never could have imagined happen. And one of those things is gun violence. Especially mass shootings. 

It's hard to find words to describe how awful these horrific events are. It's hard to process the emotions as an adult. And it's exceptionally hard to talk about it with our kids. And as much as we'd like to sweep it under the rug, our kids know more than we expect. They have active shooter trainings at school. They overhear adults talking around them, and overhear the news and videos we watch on our devices. And they have questions and emotions that they may or may not express. 

We're trying to navigate the issue as parents ourselves and thought we'd share some of the resources we've found helpful.

  • Common Sense Media is a great resource in general, but this article specifically addresses the issue of school shootings.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers comprehensive resource guides for parents, caregivers and educators to support students. Click HERE for resources related to school shootings.
  • A Kids Company About is a fantastically amazing book publishing company that addresses a ton of touchy issues and they're currently allowing free downloads of their book about school shootings. It's the children's book you never wanted to read and also a children's book you'll be ever so grateful to have read with your child.
  • The American Psychological Association has an article, "Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting."
  • NPR interviewed several child development experts for their article, "What to say to kids when the news is scary," and it has some excellent tips like being okay with saying "I don't know" when your child asks a tough question, bringing up how people are helping each other, and taking positive action together. (The article was based on a podcast, so if you'd rather listen than read, start here.)
  • Donna Tetreault's children's book, "Dear Me, Letters to Myself For All of My Emotions" is another incredible resource for moments like this – and for establishing a foundation of healthy mental, emotional habits in general. In addition to her book, check out the PDF she developed that outlines a deeper way to engage with the book and what can be learned from it.
  • Child psychologist Dr. Chandra Gosh Ippen, published, "Once I Was Very, Very Scared" to help children and adults understand how stress can affect children and ways to help them. Recommended on NPR by Dr. Melissa Brymer of UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, she notes how the animals throughout the book have different feelings and create an opportunity for kids to identify with the feelings they may be having.

Remember to take care of yourself, too. Call the National Parent Helpline at 1-855-4A PARENT (1-855-427-2736) to get emotional support from a trained Advocate. Parenting is hard on a normal day. Parenting during moments like this feels soul-shattering. You are not alone.

Do you have recommended resources, tips, or experiences you'd like to share? Please leave them in the comments so other parents can learn more.