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  • Writer's pictureYvette E. McDonald, LCSW-QS

How to Talk to Your Children about School Shootings

It’s an unfortunate thing to hear about another school shooting. People’s lives are changed in an instant. In hearing the eyewitness accounts about the evening and I can’t help but be emotional. Parents I work with report a sadness and anxiety about sending their children to school. However, in that moment of sadness and disbelief I can’t help hearing a call to action stirring up inside. What can I do to both help my children in the moment but also strengthen them for tomorrow? Here are 4 call to action steps that you can do today.

Schoo Shooting in Parkland, Florida

  1. TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN. Be the first to talk with your children about what is going in order to help them sort out their own feelings and thoughts before they are highjacked by their peer groups or outside sources that don’t know your child’s capacity and/or don’t have your child’s best interest in mind. As painful as it is to talk about these things it does know good from an emotional standpoint to pretend it doesn’t exist as this allows a child’s mind to create its own reality.

  2. PRIORITIZE YOUR CHILD’S MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH. I’ve heard parents report that they struggle with recognizing that mental health issues are real. They don’t recognize it or perhaps just don’t want to acknowledge it, thinking that everyone should be in control of their body. If we’ve learned anything from the past violence in our culture we can see that this is far from the truth. Taking care of your mental health is extremely important and no different then taking care of your physical health. However, just like our physical health we get lazy and as a culture we have resorted to more reactive methods of dealing with things. It doesn’t have to be so. We can be proactive and get the help for our kids through counseling before their mental health gets so big that it not only takes them down but everyone around them, becoming an irreversible tragedy with unimaginable consequences.

  3. BE AN ADVOCATE. Come alongside your school and brainstorm ideas on how to keep school’s safe. School’s are not what they used to be and it is going to take a collective effort to combat violence.

  4. COME UP WITH A PLAN. A lot of the witness accounts report that they knew something was off with the shooter and that he presented as unstable.

  • Have an open line of communication with your child in order that they feel comfortable talking to you about student concerns in their school and/or programs. Relay to them the importance of communicating with you children they feel are dangerous, unstable or uncomfortable to be around. Children know more than you think and can be great judges of character. Think of ‘stranger danger’ but instead replace it with ‘student danger’.

  • Raise their awareness of being people smart and aware of their surroundings.

  • Come up with a plan on what to do in an emergency situation when away from parents. Every time my children go into a new program we review “good touch and bad touch” procedures and what to do if someone tries to do a bad touch and how to prevent bad situations. This has been an invaluable process and it’s know different with student danger and bullying.

Life in the public-school system doesn’t have to be a scary and anxious ridden environment for our children. Children need a calm and peaceful learning environment to fill their minds with everything they need to learn to grow in wisdom. However, it will require intentionality to create a brighter tomorrow for our children.


Traveling Light Counseling is in the heart of Port Saint Lucie, FL and easily assessable from both Vero Beach and Martin County due to our close proximity to US1 and the Turnpike. I am committed to helping relationships be the best version they can be. Nothing excites me more that helping relationships level up and find fun and creative ways to connect, learn and grow. One such relationship is that of the parent child relationship. I offer relational support, education and help families and parents navigate through the twist and turns of the parenting journey. Please do not hesitate to bring me onto your journey, I'd be honored. Please give me a call at 772-361-8448 for a free, 15-minute phone consultation.


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