What to teach your kids about school shootings and violence at school

This post originally published August 2019

Today my oldest son is celebrating his first complete week of second grade. This morning I sent my younger son off for his first full day of kindergarten.

After school drop off I went over to a friends house for a mom‘s morning out. I absolutely adore these two women whom I got to spend time with today. Every time we get together it seems like we have endless topics to talk about and today I was particularly grateful their company kept my mind off of my kids and how much I missed them. I’ve been lucky enough to be a work at home mom since I was pregnant with my first.

The morning passed as we drank our coffee and got caught up on the details of each other’s lives and what was happening in the world around us. After quickly drinking two cups of coffee my bladder was begging for the bathroom. When I came back one of the moms said “see you go to the potty and breaking news happens. “

It’s the kind of news that brings goosebumps to your body. The kind of news that could have been way worse but none the less you don’t want to hear about.

A 12-year-old child brought a gun to school. Later in the day, we would discover the child was charged with attempted murder and the .22 caliber gun was indeed loaded.

We always think “not in my backyard” until it is in our backyard.

How Many School Shootings Since Columbine?

You may recall the news of Columbine when you were growing up. I was in college at the time and the news was very sobering. The year was 1999. Two high school seniors went on a killing spree. The complex and highly planned attack involved guns, a fire bomb to divert firefighters, propane tanks converted to bombs placed in the cafeteria, 99 explosive devices, and car bombs. A dozen students were killed and many more injured.

School shootings in America appear to be out of control and putting parents on edge. 

More than 187,000 students have been exposed to gun violence at the school since Columbine, according to the Washington Post. Many are never the same.

Some people don’t consider it a school shooting unless there is a casualty, which I honestly think is lunacy. To me, it is a shooting any time there is a gun brought into the school and it is fired because dugh – that should not be happening in a freakin school people!! Guns should not be anywhere near a school.

How can we help our kids be safe in an era of school shootings

My family and I are fortunate in that we live in a nice neighborhood and my children attend a nice school but that is no guarantee. I have a tug on my heart and worry when I send them off each day, as do so many other parents. That’s why I have been teaching them about gun safety and what to do in potentially dangerous situations.

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Teaching our kids what to look for in dangerous situations can potentially prepare them if one should ever arise.

You might be thinking “this chic needs to calm down” and I get it because theoretically, the odds are that my children will never be involved in a school shooting. However, I am sure there were parents of the children in Columbine that thought the same thing. I guarantee there are parents in my own community today who thought there was no way their child would ever be attending school when a loaded gun was brought into the building.

I’m not sure what the answer is to decreasing gun violence. That is not the topic of this post and indeed would be a lengthy topic to cover as I can see both sides of the debate.

The purpose of this article is how to teach and keep your kids safe in an era of school shootings.

School Shootings

Teach Your Kids to Be Safe

Here is what I have taught my boys so far in order to hopefully prepare them for a dangerous gun situation in their school or otherwise. Some of this can also be used when they are attending other children’s homes for play dates, or really anywhere.

  • If it looks like a gun, don’t take chances

    This is a lesson I’ve been teaching my children for about a year now after stumbling onto this article from 2013 about a 4-year-old killing his friend. It’s absolutely horrifying and I cannot even imagine the awful array of emotions all parents involved have been through.

    My older son has said “what if my friend says it’s ok” to which I have replied “it is not. I love you and value you and don’t want anything to happen to you. Wouldn’t you agree?” I explained how sometimes a child may think a real gun is a toy gun.

    It’s challenging to explain to a young child the idea of never coming back again.

  • Know what words to listen for in conversation

    Most of the time there are telltale signs that a child is considering something so drastic as bringing a gun to school. They may talk about a gun they have access to, or about shooting guns off. They may excessively talk about killing animals or even talk about taking out a schoolmate.

    I’ve taught my kids that any talk about hurting someone else and/or guns, needs to be reported right away. If they don’t feel comfortable telling someone at school then they need to tell me and I will take care of it. This can obviously be a challenging situation because you don’t want to offend anyone. But at the same time, I figure better safe than sorry.

Steps Every Parent Can Take

In addition to teaching our kids what to do and listen for – we can take precautions as parents to help protect our children and keep them safe and smart in an era of school shootings.

  • Know Your School Procedures

    This is what I did when my oldest child started kindergarten. Conversely don’t be afraid to rat out anyone who looks suspicious or isn’t following procedure. I did this just last year towards the end of the school year when after almost a year of school drop-offs I saw a man I had never seen before enter the building carrying a large duffle bag. It turns out he was a dad and perfectly legitimate. Maybe I made a fool of myself but honestly, I don’t care. I’d rather call in and look like a fool to the secretary than leaving not saying anything and have something bad happen.

  • You Have a Right to Know

    Some people may think this is a bit over the top but you know what, I don’t care. When my kids go on play dates I ask if there are guns in the home.  My number one responsibility is the safety and well-being of my children. This mama bear takes that very seriously. Not gonna lie, this is usually an awkward encounter.I’ve found it’s easiest just to do it in a text. Make a little small chit chat and then throw it out there “by the way, does your family have a gun?” If they answer yes, then ask how it is locked up.

    This is not a new question — about 19 million parents were asking it back in 2006, according to a survey conducted by the Center to Prevent Youth Violence. But after what seems like increased shootings across our nation, more and more parents are asking this question.

Tools to Help

  • Know the Numbers

    Last year I taught both boys the power of 911 and helped them memorize my cell phone number. They were ages 4 and 6. I did it through the iPad.

    You know how you can lock your iPad? I simply made the passcode my phone number. So if they wanted to play iPad during their digital time, they had to put in my phone number. It only took a few times before they both learned my number (and still know it to this day.)

  • Track Your Child

    If you want to take it a step further you could always invest in a GPS safety watch. There are a lot of them on the market today. Do your research because while there are a lot of great kids GPS watches, there are some bad ones too. Here is a list of the Best Smart Watches for Kids from your friends here at Momalot.

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Hopefully this article has been helpful on ways to keep your kids safety smart in an era of gun shootings. If you have some additional tips, feel free to leave them below!

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