Conversations around gun issues have intensified in Oregon since last week’s shooting at Reynolds High School. For parents and teachers, one of the biggest questions of the debate is how to talk to children about this tragedy.
OPB’s Public Insight Network journalist Amanda Peacher reached out to our listeners to see whether they broached the topic with their kids, and if so, how?
Here is a sampling of the answers that OPB received from the query:
“We spoke about lockdowns, signs of distress among classmates and safety. Our family response was one of dismay and commiseration over the fact that change can seem to be too slow to help right now but with the efforts of many — change happens.”
Janice Shokrian, Portland
“Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Violence is the language of the unheard.’ The solution is in helping people find ways to talk about their pain and bring healing to it, so they don’t act out in violence. My son is 18. I tell him he is an adult, in many ways, and now needs to start working toward the solutions rather than feeling like he needs adults to protect him from the problems. I encourage him to talk openly with his friends about solutions, and to talk more about solutions than the horrors of the problems.”
Elsbeth Martindale, Portland
“We are in the middle of celebrating my oldest daughter’s graduation from 8th grade and I honestly do not have a clue how to share this horrible, horrible story with her.
“On the heels of the shooting at Seattle Pacific University, it is shattering. How can we stand by and refuse to change gun laws or address mental health problems? People use guns to kill people no matter what cute slogan the NRA comes up with.”
Lynn Lindgren-Schreuder, Portland
“(My daughter had) already heard about it during the school day from a classmate who saw it on her iPhone.
“One of the real challenges is that we want to reassure children, to help them regain a sense of safety, by telling them that school shootings are exceptionally rare. But they are seeing that this is not true.”
Laura Grandin, Portland
“My son went to Reynolds for his preschool classes and saw his school in the news and asked what happen. My wife and I explained that a bad man with a gun went into the school looking to hurt people. We tend to avoid straying from the truth about these kinds of incidents.
“Hayden wanted to know why someone would do this. We explained that we still don’t know and it could be awhile before we know. We touched lightly on mental issues and bullying as possible causes.”
“Actually, (my daughter) told me about it after reading it in a social media posting. She follows the news quite closely and is well aware that these things happen all too often in the U.S. It is something our family has openly and frankly discussed for years.
“She’s been aware of so many similar incidents over the past years that she no longer has any questions about them beyond the details in each particular case. When she was younger, we were always very frank with her, answering any questions she had with complete honesty.”