How To Talk To Children About Active Shooter Drills

Sarasota psychologist Eddy Regnier offers tips on how to ease anxiety in children who may be worried about active shooter drills at school. KERRY SHERIDAN / WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA

Dr. Eddy Regnier offers his advice for parents on how to talk to children about safety and security after mass shootings.

Schools across the state are back in session, many with increased security measures and monthly active shooter drills, in an effort to ramp up security in the wake of last year’s deadly massacre at Marjory Stoneman Dougas High School in Parkland.

Sarasota clinical psychologist and specialist in child psychology, Dr. Eddy Regnier, shares ways that parents can approach these topics with their children:

  • Elementary school kids may or may not know about the risk or danger, they are just excited to go back to school. But going through drills and seeing security measures in places usually raises a little anxiety in them.
  • It’s good idea for parents to talk to them about safety, about strangers, and not to trust strangers. And to pay attention to their teachers, especially about safety issues or danger.
  • Middle and high school kids have lots of information from social media and they are probably sad and worried. They may pretend they are not scared. Or they may appear distracted by something else, but that is a good time to give them information. Tell them we live in a dangerous world. Remind them this is a remote situation that is not going to happen every day. More than likely, nothing is going to happen and they are perfectly safe in their schools.
  • When done appropriately, lockdown drills generally don’t bother kids. It’s when we pump up the fear and show them images, that they can be harmful.
  • Turn off the news when your children are around. If they are showing images of bodies, don’t watch it. Images of people crying, lighting candles, it makes them more anxious. It is better to talk to them without the TV.
  • Signs that your child’s anxiety is reaching a level where treatment might be warranted: fear of going outside, finding excuses not to go to school, pretending to be sick. Kids asking about safety vests or a sudden interest in shooting are telltale signs that they are worried too much about something that is not likely to happen.
  • Parents may also talk to children about safety in a public places, outside school, such as stores, festivals, and other places where people gather.
  • We do live in a world where it is not safe so we have to teach kids about safety. Scan the environment, look for a place where if you have to hide, you can. Look for law enforcement. Look for where somebody in authority is. You might have to go to them.
  • When in doubt about your concerns, consult an expert.
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