Families and Teachers: Free Resources to Discuss Mass Shootings With Children

Our students want and need to talk about what they see, remember, and are feeling now; they need the guidance and safety of adults in their schools to be able to navigate their own emotions and trauma in a healthy, safe, and productive way.

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Photo: Ivan Samkov

By San Diego County Office of Education

There were a series of horrific mass shootings across our country recently that our young people may be talking, wondering, and worrying about. The tragic shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, is sadly the latest in a number of horrifying murders.

In this case, the shooter targeted the Black community after posting a racist and antisemitic manifesto. We may be physically removed from the shootings, but that doesn’t mean the topic isn’t top of mind for educators, students, and families.

Our students want and need to talk about what they see, remember, and are feeling now; they need the guidance and safety of adults in their schools to be able to navigate their own emotions and trauma in a healthy, safe, and productive way.

Resources Related to Recent Events

  • The Horrific Mass Shooting in Buffalo: How to Talk with Young People, from ADL, offers resources specific to the shooting. Read here.

General Resources Following Mass Shootings

  • The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) tips for parents and educators to talk with children about violence suggests adults:
    • Reassure children they are safe and review safety procedures. 
    • Create a sense of safety by returning to normal, predictable routines as soon as possible.
    • Make time to talk and listen to the concerns and feelings of children.
    • Limit the use of media consumption of these events to lower their stress and to maintain balance and perspective.
    • Acknowledge that sleep difficulties are common and can lead to fatigue and poor participation. Read more tips here
  • The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends honesty with children – acknowledging that bad things do happen, but reassuring them with the information that many people are working to keep them safe, including their parents, teachers, and law enforcement. The APA also advises limiting children’s exposure to news coverage following such traumatic events. Read more here.
  • Additional ADL materials that may also be useful include these lesson plans on responding to hate and violence and on swastikas and other hate symbols
  • “How to Talk to Kids About Violence, Crime, and War” from Common Sense Media gathers tips and conversation starters to help talk to kids of different ages about the toughest topics. 

Wellness and Mental Health Resources for Students, Adults
SDCOE offers training and support related to school safety, school climate and culture, and student mental health and well-being:

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