America has been left reeling after two mass shootings left 29 people dead this month. 21-year-old Patrick Crusius opened fire at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas on August 3, killing 20 people and leaving dozens injured. Less than 24 hours later, another gunman attacked the Oregon district of Dayton, Ohio. Not only did Connor Betts take aim at his sister, but another eight people perished as the events unfolded. A week before these tragic incidents, three festival-goers were fatally shot while attending a garlic festival in Gilroy, California. Two of the victims were children, 6-year-old Stephen Romero, and 13-year-old Keyla Salazar.
Gun reform is as hot of a topic, but changes aren't going to happen overnight. As parents, we want nothing more than to protect our children from harm, but how can we talk to them about such a serious issue without leaving them scared? Let's take a look.
Calmly explain why you're talking about an active shooter
Communication is a key part of any serious conversation. While it may be tempting to skim over the topic as quickly as possible, explaining why you're talking about this situation is key. Let your kids know that their chances of being caught in an active shooter situation are very slim, coming in at around 1 in 11,125, according to 2015 data. However, just like it's important to know what you would do in a natural disaster, it's important to know what to do if there was an active shooter. Assure them that they will likely never have to put this knowledge to use, but they still need to know.
Teach your kids three words: run, hide, fight
According to Good Housekeeping, expert Caitlin Durkovich, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security, believes three words can go a long way. The first step should always be to run, explains Drukovich. If it's possible to escape, individuals should always take the first opportunity to do so. Secondly, they should hide. If it's not possible to evade the scene entirely, children should run as far as they safely can and hide until authorities tell them it's safe to come out. The less visible they are to the shooter, the less chance they have of getting hurt. Finally, if all else fails, "If you have to fight, fight to save your life," says Durkovich. Added tip: hiding in enclosed spaces, such as bathrooms, is never a good idea.
Tell them to report suspicious activity
Modern life is busy, especially for kids. Whether they're out at the grocery store, enjoying an event or simply sitting in French class, they may not always notice things that are out of the ordinary. And, even if they do notice something, kids are less likely to report suspicious activity than adults, as they often assume it's being dealt with. Teaching them to speak up if they've witnessed something odd, or seen an unattended bag can make a huge difference. Equally, stressing the importance of never letting anyone into a facility that has security measures, like locked doors activated by a pass, is invaluable. Someone may have genuinely forgotten their ID, but they should be directed to security.
Talk to their schools
Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook, many elementary schools have implemented active shooter drills. In fact, the majority - if not all - educational institutions have drills in place. Before sitting down to talk to your kids about this subject, reach out to their school and (if they haven't already provided one) ask for a detailed rundown of what the drills entail. This way, you can discuss this and reinforce the importance of it. You could even adapt it to different situations, so they're always following a pattern that is familiar to them.
Keeping calm is essential
In an active shooter situation, the first thing anyone will want to do is panic. However, staying calm is often essential. Mass hysteria can make the situation much worse. Let your child know to take deep breaths, and if they're ever in a situation when an adult tells them to keep quiet, it's imperative that they do so. If your children are older, then help them to understand that a level head and working as a team with other people goes a long way.