This past Saturday, I joined over 1.5 million fellow Americans in the “March For Our Lives” protests organized mainly by teens around the country. These teens were asking for common sense gun control laws including stricter background checks, an age limit of 21 to purchase a gun, and a ban on bump stocks and semi-automatic weapons. And we were there to support them. The tens of thousands of people marching with me in San Jose were of every color, every age, every nationality, every gender, and included both gun owners and those who would never consider owning a gun. (I think you know which one I am.)
As we marched in a light but steady rain, we discussed politics, every aspect of gun control, and what can be done to keep our kids safe. We chatted with each other and with strangers. Everyone was polite, friendly, and motivated to help bring about change.
And while I felt determined and proud to be marching, I also felt so sad. My children now aged 33 and 29, did not have active shooter drills in their classrooms. They were not taught how to barricade their classroom doors. They were not scared to go to school in the morning. And while I taught my children about stranger danger, to lock the front door, and to be aware while walking alone, I did not have to discuss mass shootings with them. And I’m sad that so many young parents and young children are now having these conversations.
So how do we talk about this with our children?
Pre-schoolers don’t need to be told about these adult issues. Make sure you are not discussing them or listening to the news with your children present. And go to all the marches you want. They will love being in a parade.
Younger elementary school kids are being taught in school to hide under their desk and to be quiet during a drill, but they don’t need to totally understand why. Just call it a Safety Drill, just like a Fire Drill.
Older elementary kids can be told that there was a shooting in a school, but we don’t have to share every detail. Explain that now all students, in every school, are practicing what to do if something like that happened in their school. (But we don’t think it will.)
And our middle and high school kids already know the news and the details, so use this as a teachable moment in time to discuss it with them. Ask what they think. Ask their opinions. Ask about how it feels at school or if kids are talking about it. And encourage them to look for their voice to be heard.
What do you think? How do you feel? And what are you saying to your children?
Please share your thoughts and ideas, so we can all learn from each other. This is tough.