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Active Shooter Drills Prompts Fears in 8 Year Old

Question

Recently, our 8-year-old came home from school talking about whether the best way to run away from a “bad guy with a gun in school” was in a straight line or in a zig-zag fashion. Apparently the whole school had practiced a drill for this very specific scenario. I was at a loss as to what to tell him and a little angry with the school for providing needless details—I thought an “emergency drill” would have sufficed. How do I now soothe the fears of our child who is worried about an active shooter in his school, and can you comment on strategies we (and our school) can use to rationally address this possibility?

Answer

Thank you for your question.

I'll first say that I will not comment on strategies to use in the case of an active shooter scenario. I will point you back to the school district, specifically the superintendent. Go to the decision maker.

As far as soothing a child's fears, remember that children look to us for comfort. When you are calm, state, in simple words, that although these events are upsetting, they are also rare. It is unlikely (statistally speaking) that this will occur in your child's school. I live in the Southeastern US. We have tornado drills. A tornado has come near a school where I worked but did not hit the school. The drill prepared students and teachers in the rare chance our school found itself in the path of a tornado. You may have a similar story for your child (my mother remembers "duck and cover" drills). Your child may have studied something about WWII and you can let him know that the active shooter drills are similar to the drills children in that era practiced.

Now, I've already talked too much but I wanted to give you several different ways to connect the drills your son is learning to past generations. We all have drills to practice, the one he's learning is different but we all have drills (fire, tornado, etc.)

I hope this is helpful. One more thing "less is more." Meaning, be matter-of-fact about it and your son's fears will likely diminish.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Susan Morley, CLPC, CARES
www.ParentCoachAtlanta.com

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