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Tonight, as Ann Arbor Public Schools and other schools across the state have announced they will be closed due to threats of violence, I want to share some thoughts with the parents in our community.

We should not have to talk to our children about gun violence. School shootings are horrific. They should not happen. Ever. And yet- our world is broken. Within this splintered world, it is our job as parents to keep our children safe- both physically and emotionally. And so we must steady ourselves and find ways to talk with our children- at a level that is developmentally appropriate- in order for them to be ok.
To talk with our children about the tragedy at Oxford High School without flooding our children with overwhelming fear, we must first regulate ourselves.

Before talking with your children, I recommend you let yourself feel whatever it is that you are feeling. If you are feeling despair, hopelessness, rage, grief… let yourself feel it. That is what we should feel when needless tragedies occur.

Reach out to your loved ones. Cry. Talk. Gather comfort and strength.

Then channel your outrage into action. Donate to Sandy Hook Promise or volunteer your time with Moms Demand Action. Write a letter to your congress person. Do not just bury your head in the sand.

Do something.
And Breathe. Focus on the present: The incredible, living beings you are raising. Figure out a way to help them feel as safe as one can feel in these times.

Our children look to us to know how to respond. So, when you are ready, begin the conversation. Do not jump in without understanding what your child already knows or share all the facts that are out there. Go slowly. Be curious. Focus on what is being done to keep them safe: who are the helpers, what are the safety plans. Limit their access to TV/news reports about the events- recognizing gratuitous images and repetition of information will not help. Let them know you want to hear their concerns and you take them seriously- but follow their lead with the pace. Explore their ideas about how they can help. Let them know how much you love them.

May our children stay safe and our world begin to heal,

Beth Pearson, Ph.D.