Talking About Children and Guns
Most first-graders bring things from home to "show and tell." But nobody could have anticipated that a six-year-old Michigan boy would bring in a loaded handgun and kill his classmate, Kayla Rolland. It's nearly impossible for parents to prevent kids from seeing or hearing news reports about such a terrible and frightening event. If and when they do, you need to open up a dialogue with them about it, even if they don't initiate the discussion themselves.For example, in the case of the Michigan tragedy, you might start by asking your kids:
- Why they think this boy brought a gun to school.
- Whether they believe the boy meant to kill his classmate or if he just wanted to scare her.
- What are the best ways to settle disagreements with classmates and other children?
- How can they deal with anger? Discuss ways they can handle themselves if they're really angry with another child and what to do if another child gets very angry with them.
- Make it clear to your kids that hurting or killing others may get kids on TV and on magazine covers, but it's not the way to become famous. Remove any glamour and excitement that they might somehow attach to this event.
- Reinforce your family's values about the sanctity of human life and violence toward others.
- Reassure your kids that you will talk to their teachers and their principal about making sure that their school is a safe place.
- Give them more physical affection and one-on-one time in the aftermath of a tragedy. Some kids may be more clingy and prone to nightmares.
According to Senator Herbert Kohl (D-Wisconsin), sponsor of the gun safety lock measure, almost 7,000 violent crimes are committed every year by kids using guns they took from their homes. As parents, we are not doing a good job of keeping our guns out of the hands of our children.
If you're a gun owner, be a responsible one. Keep your guns and your ammunition out of the hands of your kids. Lobby for child locks on guns. Demand that your school system and police department establish and enforce violence prevention protocols and conduct violence prevention and mediation programs in your school.
Accident or not, when a six-year-old boy kills a six-year-old girl in school, parents need to channel our outrage, fear, and sadness into personal responsibility and political and social action. Our children deserve nothing less.
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