Helping families process the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas

Resources for parents, families, and educators

OAKLAND, CA (May 25, 2022) The dark. Monsters under the bed. Bad dreams. Thunderstorms.

These are the normal things that kids should have to fear — things that a comforting hug, funny story, or animated movie can debunk with ease. Instead, we find ourselves trying to make sense of yet another horrific tragedy that claimed the lives of 19 children and 2 educators at the most innocent of places: an elementary school.

The gut punch follows a string of recent violence in the everyday spaces where we’re supposed to feel safe, from racist attacks in supermarkets and churches to random acts of violence during a morning commute. These are the stories that make major headlines, but the reality is much darker as gun violence lurks in the shadows of our lives each day. In fact, yesterday’s massacre in Uvalde, TX is the 27th school shooting this year. The 27th time this year that students arrived to learn and teachers showed up to work, only to be murdered or imprinted with lifelong psychological trauma.

While the impulse to turn away from the disturbing reality of these tragedies may be strong, parents and educators charged with helping children cope in the aftermath of such events do not have that option. We’ve compiled the following resources to help you navigate this moment:

  • Acknowledge feelings. Talking to your child about traumatic events can help them process what they’re seeing and hearing around them. You don’t need to have all the answers; instead, focus on short, simple statements to invite discussion such as, “Something bad happened and I’m feeling scared. How are you feeling?” Colorín Colorado shares more tips for talking with children about school violence and reassuring their safety. (en Español)
  • Limit media exposure. Media coverage after a traumatic event can increase feelings of fear and anxiety. Young children may struggle to process the graphic images or understand that footage on replay isn’t a new tragedy unfolding. Follow these tips from The National Center for Child Traumatic Stress to help children understand and manage their media consumption during times of crisis. 
  • Monitor for signs of trauma. As children process a national tragedy, they may exhibit signs of trauma. For young children, this could include being extra clingy or wanting to sleep in bed with you. Teens, on the other hand, may appear withdrawn or quiet. The National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative can help you identify and treat signs of trauma. (en Español)
  • Advocate for school safety. Families can have a big influence on school policies by advocating for school safety and ensuring your family contributes to the wellness of the school community. Learn more about the components of safe schools, warning signs to prevent a future tragedy, and what accommodations to consider if your child has an IEP. (en Español)
  • Know the facts about guns at home. In 2020, firearms became the top cause of death for children and teens. Having a gun at home increases the risk of unintentional shootings, suicide, and homicide and jeopardizes children’s everyday safety — which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against keeping a firearm at home. (en Español)
  • Get informed and make your voice heard. Gun violence in schools is preventable. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Everytown for Gun Safety has compiled a research report outlining how to keep our kids safe in schools. Understanding these policies, and registering to vote (en Español) are great ways to ensure you are informed and your voice is heard.

Like all of you, our team at GreatSchools is grieving. We, too, are parents — of fourth graders, teenagers, college students, adults with kids of their own — whose faces we look into each day and fear that which we cannot control. We see our children and loved ones in the faces of the victims of these tragedies: Latino students practicing their math skills, Black grandmothers shopping for Sunday dinner, Asian parents at their place of worship, commuters on their way to work.

The despair is heavy and the words are few. But even in these moments, we have no choice but to find hope, in any form we can: talking with friends, going for a walk, squeezing loved ones a little tighter, advocating for safer schools. Today, we find hope in supporting parents and families. Let’s try to take care of each other as best we can.

Author: GreatSchools.org

GreatSchools.org is the leading national nonprofit empowering parents with essential information to improve educational opportunities for their child. We are the only national organization that collects and analyzes data from all 51 state departments of education and the federal government to provide analysis, insights, and school quality ratings for parents, partners, researchers, and policymakers. Over 46 million users visit GreatSchools’ award-winning website annually to learn about schools in their area, explore research insights, and access thousands of free, evidence-based parenting resources to support their child’s learning and well-being.

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