Resources for Talking to Children About Gun Violence
In light of the tragic shootings in Lewiston, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) has pulled together some initial resources for talking to children about violence and shootings and supporting one another. The Maine DOE will be providing additional resources as we learn more.
Talking to Children
Provide a short statement of fact: Violence took place in our community and many people were hurt. Students are safe here. You are safe. There are people here who can help you.
Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance processing the incident. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to ensure their safety.
Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe communities and schools, communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators and parents/guardians, and accessing support for emotional needs.
Mental Health First Aid
Monitor and assess impact: Students and colleagues will be affected in different ways. We do not know how this event has affected people – directly and/or indirectly. Continue to assess impact of the event on those around you.
Be mindful of self-regulation to assist youth in maintaining a level of safety and connection.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers Talking to Children about the Shooting (nctsn.org). Shootings such as this tragedy evokes many emotions—sadness, grief, helplessness, anxiety, and anger. Children and adults are likely struggling with their thoughts and feelings about the stories and images of the shooting may turn to trusted adults for help and guidance.
Resources for educators and parents to support children of different age levels manage feelings of anxiety and helplessness following a tragedy: Helping Children Cope With Tragedy Related Anxiety | Mental Health America (mhanational.org)
US Department of Health and Human Services Tips for Talking to Children and Youth After Traumatic Events: https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/tips-talking-to-children-after-traumatic-event.pdf