In light of the mass shootings happening across America, Adam Coughran, president of Safe Kinds Inc., shares tips on how to talk to kids about them. It's upsetting that society has come to the point where young children have to learn about gun safety, but it’s something that must be taught to them even if the conversation is hard. With some tips from a safety expert, parents and caregivers can give the talk more gently.
Last weekend marked another round of mass shootings in the country. A shooter in El Paso, Texas killed 22 people, and one in Dayton, Ohio claimed another nine lives. The victims were people of all ages and backgrounds; some people lost their children, while others lost grandparents or parents. The youngest one in El Paso to lose their life to a bullet was 15 years-old.
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As I made my way down Viscount...Viscount was backed up to the GECU that is around the corner and cars were seen driving in towards Walmart on Sunmount Drive. It looked like a typical busy evening and appeared like business was running as usual. That was until I pulled into Sunmount Drive and the street was blocked off by EPPD and Sheriff units along with various news outlets from around the city and around the nation. I parked my car at the Hooters parking lot and I walked down to the makeshift memorial. I couldn’t help but tear up as I saw with my own eyes what has become of the Walmart that I have frequented since I was a kid. As I got closer to the memorial... the air was somber, energy was low. Several other El Pasoans were also paying their respects, news outlets whispering but mostly everyone was quite. Not saying a word. But standing there, in shock... in disbelief, just like myself. Most likely thinking to themselves... How could this happen in our city? Our beautiful city of El Paso where all the people are loving and caring. Our favorite shopping area is now tainted but we will continue to be #ElPasoStrong 🖤 #elpaso 📷 by Me
Coughran wants to encourage parents and caretakers to have a conversation with their kids about gun safety. He even believes that the younger they are, the better. It’s important for them to know that there are people in the world who are harmful, and they shouldn’t expect everyone to be kind all the time. It’s also essential for them to know what kind of crowds or noises to avoid (loud bangs, jitters in the crowd, etc.) and what to do if someone yells “active shooter!” in a public space.
To avoid making the conversation so grim, Coughran recommends that parents present the issue in terms kids understand: through storytelling. You can choose to liken it to their favourite stories involving villains and heroes so that they are able to fully grasp the situation. Gun violence is hard for a child to understand, so presenting a story with a good and bad side may be helpful for their understanding.
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I don’t really know what to say about this. Tragedy is always hard, but hits close to home when it happens in your own backyard. After staying up til 3am texting all my friends in Dayton to make sure they were okay, I headed down there yesterday. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound of a parent breaking down who just lost their child, or the look in the eye of a young man still in a sling from being shot who saw his friend get murdered in front of him. This is a completely senseless tragedy and so many lives were taken because of one selfish person. But Dayton really came together. There were thousands who filled the street to mourn, support one another, and get angry. They shouted at government officials to do something, and that their thoughts and prayers weren’t enough. I did my best to hold it all together but lost it when they were reading off all the names of people who died and seeing their loved ones in the crowd collapsing with grief. Hold each other tight. I love you Dayton. Scroll ➡️
Another thing that may help is teaching your kids that sometimes it may be helpful to break the rules. If they’re taught no to run in the hallway or separate from their parents, then they may hesitate if they’re caught in a shooting. They should know that they have the permission to break such rules in emergency situations, and they’re allowed to listen to their instinctual responses to danger.