Talking to Children About Violence and School Shootings

High-profile acts of violence, particularly school shootings, can cause stress, trauma, anxiety, or other emotional responses. The resources below provide guidance in helping students navigate their emotions and trauma in a safe and healthy way while also helping you process your own feelings and responses.

Below are some tips from the National Association of School Psychologists for talking to children and young adults:

  • Reassure children they are safe. Validate their feelings and let them express their feelings, but emphasize that schools are very safe.
  • Make time to talk. Watch for clues for when they want to talk and let their questions guide you in how much information to share.
  • Keep explanations developmentally appropriate. Common Sense Media provides excellent recommendations for taking an age-based approach to discussing school shootings.
  • Review safety procedures. This includes the Big Five safety response procedures at school and procedures at home.
  • Observe their mental state. Watch for changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns and seek the help of a mental health professional if you are concerned.
  • Limit news covering recent events. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion; be mindful of the conversations held in front of children.
  • Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health, but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.

Additional Tips for Responding to Violence

Shelter in Place, Drop, Cover, and Hold On, Secure Campus, Lockdown/Barricade, Evacuation

The Big Five Increases School Safety

Principals, teachers, and other school staff work closely with public safety officials using The Big Five emergency response protocols to ensure that all children are safe at school. All schools have detailed emergency plans and school employees are trained in these protocols.

What is The Big Five?

The Big Five is a common emergency plan adopted by all San Mateo County school districts and law enforcement agencies. Created by San Mateo County's Coalition for Safe Schools and Communities, The Big Five protocol supports high-quality training for school staff and community members and ensures clear channels of communication with schools, first responders, parents, and community members should an emergency occur.

How Can I Help?

Be sure to talk with your children about school emergency response plans and review The Big Five periodically. Teach your children to follow the lead of school staff in the event of an emergency.

Learn your school's student-parent reunification plan as well as the school's parental notification methods. Your cooperation is necessary in any emergency and in the student release process. To best support your child's safety in a school emergency, remain calm and follow the plan. Open communication between home and school is critical to the safety and well-being of our students and your children. If you have any questions about school safety policies, please contact your child's teacher or school principal.

Additional Resources

Molly Henricks

Coordinator, School Safety and Risk Prevention

Email: mhenricks@smcoe.org

Phone: (650) 802-5434

Lorie Stuckert

Administrative Assistant

Email: lstuckert@smcoe.org

Phone: (650) 802-5427