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Home | Insights | How to T.A.L.K. S.C.A.R.E.D with your Kid

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How to T.A.L.K. S.C.A.R.E.D with your Kid

I’d really rather NOT be writing about this right now. Especially in the middle of so many winter holidays when we all so desperately need joy in our lives.

But I got a phone call yesterday morning from a client that really hit home.

This parent was calling because there was an active shooter threat at her daughter’s middle school and she was trying to figure out how to talk to her kids about it and explain why she had kept them home.

Let me say those words again: Active Shooter Threat.

We hear them so frequently in the media, and although we are saddened when we hear of a threat turning into reality, in many ways we have numbed ourselves to this phenomenon.

Taking to children about traumatic events infographicWe have normalized that our children no longer just do fire drills—they now also do active shooter drills.

We have reached a place where we might—if we have time—mourn lives lost in school shootings, but then we move on. We have to, right?

Until it happens at our child’s school.

And as I said to this parent, there is no handbook for how to tell a child that someone out there may want to shoot them.

So what do we do?

Now to be clear, this is not a post about activism or how to prevent these events from happening. As I said, I think it’s a multi-tiered challenge, and I don’t have all the answers. That said, I *hope* that no matter where you fall on the great gun debate you agree that our children do not deserve to be fearful of being shot at school.

And yet they are.

So how do we talk to them about it? What do you do when this kind of threat arrives at your school?

It bears repeating that there is no handbook for this kind of thing, but I do think the “T.A.L.K. S.C.A.R.E.D.” framework I developed a year ago during the attack on the Capitol is useful here as well.

When our kids are scared—and we are scared—it is helpful to have a clear and age-appropriate approach for talking to them. My hope is that this framework will provide that to you.

A few additional pointers I hope will be helpful:

  1. Manage your own emotions. If at all possible—and it’s usually possible—take some time to calm down and manage your own big feelings about whatever is going on before you talk to your kids. If you show up in fear in anxiety, that will translate to them. They need you in your calm.
  2. Give them power when and where you can. Depending on their age, you can ask them what they want to know and can promise not to share information if you don’t have to. When we are fearful, we feel like our power has been taken away. Work to give it back to them in whatever small ways you are able to.
  3. Take care of your own heart. Nothing makes a parent feel less capable than feeling an intense fear for your kid. With parent groups using apps like WhatsApp and other social media platforms to communicate, parents can quickly get spun into a frenzy around events like this with new information is coming in every minute. If being in a group like that only serves to ramp up your emotions, stay off those channels. Focus on getting your information from reputable news sources and limiting your own media exposure so that you can provide your children with accurate facts.

With those pointers and the T.A.L.K. S.C.A.R.E.D. framework, you should feel better prepared to discuss scary, traumatic events with your kiddos. I hope you never need these tips, but if you do, they’re here.

Stay safe out there, and hug your kiddos tight!

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Christy Keating is a certified parent coach,  positive discipline educator, and motivational speaker. She is the founder and CEO of The Heartful Parent Collective, which includes Heartful Parent Coaching, Savvy Parents Safe Kids, and Heartful Parent Academy.

The mother of two amazing daughters, Christy strives to build a happier, healthier world - one child, one parent, and one family at a time.

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