Talking to your kids about about gun safety and gun violence starts with patience…
If you don’t follow the news, who can blame you the way things have been going lately. But I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the most recent mass-shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. It’s been coined as the second-deadliest shooting at a U.S. public school, where 17 students and teachers were killed.
Now let’s stop for a moment. We are talking about a MASS-SHOOTING in a HIGH SCHOOL! Long gone are the days when kids worries about things like who made the hottest club, or their favorite sports team or who won the class presidential race. Now we have to worry about things far more chilling. More importantly, we have to add mass-shootings to the list of “The Talks” we have to have with our kids. A talk that could very well scar them and how they view school, for the rest of their young lives. While we know this is no easy feat, it’s a conversation that must be had, and there’s no time like the present to discuss gun safety and gun violence.
Any act of violence breaks my heart, especially gun violence, but to think the youngest victim who fell victim to the Parkland shooting, was just 14 years old tears my soul. No parent should ever have to bear the burden of burying a child. Which led me to wonder. How do I talk to my kids about such a horrific act? Is it possible to prepare them for the unthinkable, without stealing their innocence and creating mass-hysteria? Well to be honest, there is no easy way to tell. But as Whitney M. Young, Jr. would say, “it’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.”
As you know, there is no perfect or convenient time to talk to your child about gun violence and gun safety and I’ll admit I had to give myself a pep-talk before having this talk with my kids. Luckily. I had the opportunity to chat with Iesha Sekou, CEO & Founder of Street Corner Resources, a non-profit organization that works with at-risk-youth to change the narrative as it relates to gun and gang violence amongst youth in Harlem, NY. She dropped some serious jewels.
When is the best time to talk kids about gun violence and gun safety?
Iesha: It’s crucial that parents find a time that will not be interrupted by the phone ringing, the TV glaring or side conversations. First and foremost, go somewhere quite so that you have their undivided attention (and they have yours) and there are less opportunities to be distracted.
This is obviously a difficult conversation at any age, but how do you start the conversation, especially with younger children?
Iesha: Begin to ask open-ended questions, you get more. Start with questions like:
“Do you know anything about guns or gun violence”
“Has anyone said anything to you about guns?”
“What do you think about guns?”
“Have you ever been to a house where you saw a gun?”
Then, get quiet, be patient and let them answer, while you listen and observe. Often times you’ll be surprised at what they tell you and how much they know.
Be careful not to push them to say anything. Let them say what they need to say even if they struggle with the answers or you think you know what they’re about to say.
The challenge with these types of conversations is that they make us uncomfortable and even though we recognize the importance; we still rush to get through them. You have to remember children ( of any age), are bombarded with info in the background random conversations while out and about, family conversations, news, internet and can’t forget the information other friends have been bombarded with and are now inclined to share. Keep in mind, even when they aren’t directly part of the conversation, they are listening and all of these factors will affect how they respond.
After these questions, you’ll be bombarded with so much information, what do you do?
Iesha: It’s important that your children know that they are being heard. Once they are finished telling you what they know and how they feel about gun violence and gun safety, repeat back to them their key points. Follow that up with, I understand that you feel scared when you see a gun in a friends house, just remember you should always tell an adult when this happens and call your parents if they aren’t around.
This is where you need to be prepared to learn more than you may want. How you respond is everything.
My interview with Iesha prompted me to talk to my own children. Here’s my quick adhoc convo with them.
Have you had the talk about gun violence and gun safety with your children? How did you handle it? Share your comments below.
Special Thanks to our resident gun violence and gun safety expert Iesha Sekou.
About Iesha Sekou
Iesha is the CEO & Founder of Street Corner Resources, a non-profit organization which aims to engage youth, provide resources to help them develop their God-given talents and be a bulwark against the ongoing trend towards violence in inner-city neighborhoods. Iesha Sekou is also a community activist, public speaker and radio host of WHCR 90.3 FM Street Corner Resources Live.