How to talk to your kids about violence

The tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last week has ignited emotions in people across the nation. Many feel sorrow at the loss of so many young lives and such dedicated educators. Some feel angry at the reoccurrence of this type of violence and angry about the proposed solutions to prevent future tragedies. And many parents are worried about the safety of their own children and wondering about the best ways to talk with their children about this kind of violence.

Most of the broader issues surrounding the shooting – e.g., gun regulations, school security measures and mental health care – are incredibly complex and too politically-charged for EBL to unravel at this point. We can weigh in on what the evidence says about helping children understand and cope with traumatic events.

We have compiled a list of tips and evidence-based advice about explaining trauma and violence to children. Here are some of the highlights:

· Find times when children are most likely to talk, such as during a car ride or dinnertime.

· Start the conversation by letting them know you’re interested in how they are coping.

· Listen to their thoughts and point of view without interrupting before you respond.

· Tell them you are there to provide safety, comfort and support.

You can find more comprehensive advice at:

· The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology

· The American Psychological Association

· The National Center for Toddlers, Infants and Families provides great advice for younger children.

· The Kaiser Family Foundationoffers advice for helping school-aged children cope.

· The National Association of School Psychologists offers advice on discussing school violence specifically.

It is sad that parents need to explain such horrific events to their children. But because this kind of violence does happen in our society, the best action parents can take is to consider the evidence when having these difficult discussions with their children.


  1. Sri Wahyuni says:

    There is a great concern about the incidence of violent behavior among children and adolescents. This complex and troubling issue needs to be carefully understood by parents, teachers, and other adults.
    Children as young as preschoolers can show violent behavior. Parents and other adults who witness the behavior may be concerned, however, they often hope that the young child will “grow out of it.” Violent behavior in a child at any age always needs to be taken seriously. It should not be quickly dismissed as “just a phase they’re going through.
    Violent behavior in children and adolescents can include a wide range of behaviors: explosive temper tantrums, physical aggression, fighting, threats or attempts to hurt others (including homicidal thoughts), use of weapons, cruelty toward animals, fire setting, intentional destruction of property and vandalism.

  2. Jamie says:

    Why such incidents keep on happening again and again? Are parents responsible for the upbringing of their child? This topic really needs deep thinking and serious consideration.

  3. aziz maulana says:

    sychologists who work in the area of trauma and recovery advise parents to use the troubling news of school shootings as an opportunity to talk and listen to their children. It is important, say these psychologists, to be honest. Parents should acknowledge to children that bad things do happen, but also reassure them with the information that many people are working to keep them safe, including their parents, teachers and local police.

    Young children may communicate their fears through play or drawings. Elementary school children will use a combination of play and talking to express themselves. Adolescents are more likely to have the skills to communicate their feelings and fears verbally. Adults should be attentive to a child’s concerns, but also try to help the children put their fears into proportion to the real risk. Again, it is important to reassure children that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to make their environment — school, home and neighborhood — safe for them.

    Parents, teachers and school administrators also need to communicate with one another not only about how to keep kids safe, but about which children might need more reassurance and the best way to give it to them.


  1. […] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}Each time there is a tragic shooting that makes the headlines, media pundits question whether the violence found in many U.S. movies, TV […]

  2. […] of gun violence in America have dominated media outlets across the country over the past year.  The tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut continues to fuel an on-going debate about the laws surrounding violence and safety in our society. […]

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