1. Ask them if they’ve heard about anything scary at school. (You have to send them back to school.) Sometimes they come home with interesting facts about butterfly migrations or plans to stop people from littering, so their teachers are likely sharing some news and current events with them.
If they say yes: Separate fact from fiction. It’s fact that the school shooting happened. It’s fiction that it probably won’t happen again.
If they say no: Call your nearest NRA-supporting senator’s office. When the staffer picks up, request that the senator explain to your six-year-old child what happened. It’s doubtful that the senator will answer because Disney World is only open 365 days a year, but the college intern who’ll take your call is probably trained in speaking with the public, and old enough to remember Sandy Hook.
2. Ask them if they have any questions. It’s normal for kids to be curious about things happening in the world, just like it’s normal for lawmakers to offer “thoughts and prayers” when children are killed by someone with a gun.
If they say yes: They will probably ask you where babies come from or if they can have a snack. Say, “No, about the scary thing that happened at the other school. You can have an apple, but cookies are treats, and those are for after dinner.”
If they ask you why the shooter did it: Tell them you don’t know.
If they ask you if the kids were scared: Tell them you don’t know.
If they ask you if something like that will happen here: Tell them no (even though you don’t know).
3. Ask them if they know what to do if there is gun violence at their school. American schools are full of rules and regulations. This means that instead of relying on laws that would make school shootings a thing of the past, your child will undergo active shooter drills. Your first grader will call them, “What we do if a scary person gets in the building” practice.
If they say yes: Think about your child hiding in the darkest corner of their classroom. (They will want to sit on the rainbow carpet, but that’s in view of the windowed door.) They will earn a good behavior point if they stay quiet. A police officer will walk the hallways to ensure that all classes are participating in the drill. Your child will hear their footsteps coming closer.
If they say no: Think briefly about bulletproof backpacks that you can’t afford. Tell your child not to worry. There will be another drill soon.
4. Ask them if there’s anything else they want to tell you. Leaving room for conversation is important because it allows your child to bring up their own fears about being murdered in their elementary school.
If they say yes: Have their baby book ready for this part. You’ll want to record these precious thoughts; they don’t last forever. Don’t think about those other parents and their baby books. Don’t think that leaving your kid’s baby book unfinished will somehow magically keep them safe. This is America.
If they say no: Ask them again the next time this happens.