How to Talk With Kids About School Threats
As educators, parents, and caregivers, talking with our kids about school threats is challenging. We also know that having these conversations is very important.
Engaging in honest and age-appropriate conversations is essential, because it allows us to learn how our kids feel and what they think. It ultimately reassures their sense of safety.
We know schools remain among the safest places for students. School leaders, educators, and staff members take their responsibility in promoting safe campuses and addressing safety concerns very seriously.
Included are some helpful tips for thinking through how to have these conversations with our children.
Be Honest, Brief, and Simple
Be honest about the situation, but don’t give more details than needed. Children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their schools and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Help your kids by asking questions. It is that open dialogue that comforts them. Ask your kids what makes them feel safe. Ask your kids what they know, then fill the gaps with facts.
A way to explain this to younger children might be:
“The police were looking for someone who needed help. They were worried she could have hurt herself or someone else. Until they found her, we kept kids at home to ensure everyone was safe.”
Listen to Questions
Let your children ask questions. Give space to let them talk and listen to their feelings. Don’t be surprised if your children don’t have any questions or concerns — often, children will quickly return to their typical routines.
Limit Exposure to Details
Limit exposure to details and media coverage. Adults should also be mindful of the content of conversations they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers. Continued exposure to media can increase anxiety and fear for adults and children. For younger children, each time they see the continued news story, it can feel like a new event.
Links for Learning
- The National Association of School Psychologists has a resource with tips in its Talking to Children About Violence, which is also available in Spanish and several other languages.
- The University of Utah has an article on how to talk to your children following a school threat with more tips on how to start the conversation.
- The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) created a resource guide for talking with children about school shootings.
- SDCOE partnered with the San Diego County District Attorney and other local law enforcement on an easy-to-use brochure for educators to raise awareness and prevent school threats.
More to explore
The San Diego County Board of Education is accepting online applications for student board members now through Feb. 1 on the SDCOE student board member webpage.
The Juvenile Court and Community Schools student representative on the San Diego County Board of Education for November was M’Niya, a senior at San Pasqual Academy.
Alicia McBride, an SDCOE teacher in the Juvenile Court and Community Schools East Region, was recently honored by the San Diego County Credit Union as part of its Classroom Heroes program.
The Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission selected Mara Madrigal-Weiss, executive director of student wellness and school culture for the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), as its chair for the third consecutive year.
The San Diego County Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution endorsing November 2023 as National Native American Heritage Month.
There are many local scholarship and contest opportunities available for students in San Diego County. Check this page often for updates.