Talking to Children about Gun Violence

Talking to Children about Gun Violence

I wish this was not a topic we have to discuss with our children. It may feel easier to pretend violent events do not happen, but that makes things worse for your kiddo.

Whether your kiddo experienced this event at the Super Bowl celebration, saw the events unfold on live TV, or heard about it through social media apps or from friends, they have been impacted in a significant way. They may feel sad, angry, confused, unsafe, or irritable, just to name a few. 

Talk about this with your littles!

Not talking about this can make the event more threatening to your kiddo. Silence suggests that what has occurred is too horrible to speak about. It is important to stay age-appropriate in the information given to your child. Do not try to over explain the situation. Encourage your kiddo to do the talking.

Ask your kiddo, “what have you heard?” “what are you thinking?” “Are you afraid?” 

For kiddos who were at the traumatic event, ask “what did you experience?” in addition to the three other questions. 

As your child explains, listen for misinformation, misconceptions, and underlying fears or concerns. Share facts depending on what is age and developmentally appropriate. Gently correct any inaccurate information. Children want to know why something happens. It is okay to say “I don’t know.” Acknowledge their feelings, their concerns, and their fears. Reassure your kiddos that they are safe, that you love them and will do what you can to ensure they are safe. 

Children may experience trouble paying attention and concentrating, become irritable or defiant, may have trouble separating from caregivers, and may have changes in their sleep or appetite routines. In general, these should lessen within a few weeks. If anxiety or other symptoms persists, consult with your pediatrician or contact a child therapist.

If you have guns at home–talk about gun safety and the importance of gun safety in the home.

Avoid describing the shooter(s) with words like “crazy” or “mentally ill” as that could further stigmatize mental illness for your child. Talk about how quickly first responders were on scene, as this shows that there is good, even in a horrific event. Avoid media exposure in the coming days. This is not only helpful for your kiddo; it helps you as their parent. The nonstop exposure of the events that occurred can be triggering to adults and children. 

Share with your child how you are feeling.

This can help normalize feelings surrounding the events that have occurred. Also share how you are coping with your feelings. This models healthy coping skills to your child. Encourage your child to think of ways they could help the community. Whether that is through prayer, writing letters to officials, donating or performing acts of kindness in honor and memory of the victims. 

Repeat this conversation!

It takes time for a child, let alone us adults, to process. This is normal. Let your child know that you are there for them if they want to talk about the events or their feelings more. Be patient with them as they are processing. They may not communicate that they want your help, but they need it. Be patient with yourself, too! 

Grow Psychological, LLC has clinicians who are offering limited free therapy sessions to those impacted by the events of the Chiefs Super Bowl Celebration on 2/14/2024. I, Rebecca Bell, am offering two free play therapy sessions per client for children ages 3-10. Limited availability. Hollie Foley and McKenna Elfrink are offering limited free trauma therapy sessions. Hollie and McKenna work with children, teens, adults, and families. 

Please reach out for help. We are here. You do not have to do this alone! 

Contact Rebecca, Hollie, or McKenna directly via email: for free play therapy for free trauma therapy for free trauma therapy 

24/7 Crisis Resources:

911 or go to your nearest Emergency Room

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call or text 988

SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: call or text 1-800-985-5990

Johnson County Mental Health crisis line: 913-268-0156