My younger sister and I were en route to school early Tuesday morning when our mother called to inform us that school had been cancelled due to a district-wide bomb threat. I was not surprised, being that I had read about half a dozen similar instances since the San Bernardino shootings last month. When we returned home, our mom gave us each a tight squeeze and had one request – she asked us not to explain the reason for the vacation day to our third grade brother.
Her reasoning is understandable. This news would make most high school students, nonetheless an eight year old, very anxious. However, within minutes of getting out of bed, my brother was privy to the situation.
I quickly noticed that my parents were handling the touchy topic in a very different manner with each of their children, which made me raise an eyebrow. Is it inappropriate to talk to young children about these hypersensitive issues, or is it completely necessary? Should it be assumed that a high school student would be able to digest these mortifying facts?
In a society, or even a world, that has become so prone to danger, people are becoming immune to the fear. When an event like Tuesday’s shut down puts this danger directly in front of you, it is positively imperative that these events are discussed. The only answer to eliminating overwhelming fear is to have open conversations between parents, teachers and children.
Needless to say, the subject matter should be approached differently when talking to a teenager than when talking to an elementary-aged child. Teenagers are more aggressive and knowledgeable that adults assume; we are open to topical conversations about gun control or safety services. Schools often avoid these matters, in an attempt to be “politically correct.” As the next generation of voters and politicians, it is crucial that we have safe settings to confer over these alarming issues. If they are hidden from us, how can we be expected to make informed decisions to improve our culture?
There are many young people who may seem like they are “not mature enough” to handle these discussions. Perhaps this is because they appear to take these situations too lightly by joking about them on social media or via text. These acts may be out of pure confusion, being that the teenager has not been able to talk with anyone about these shootings, bombings, and threats. Their attempts at humor are simply their coping mechanisms.
With a younger child, a candid conversation about how these happenings make them feel could be enough to make school feel like a safer place. According to ABC News, over 1,000 schools in America employ a program called “Straight Talk About Risks,” which is an informative curriculum for students of all ages. Many states are working to make programs of this nature a mandatory part of school curriculums. While this is not yet a reality due to opposing views, the implementation of these programs will make school environments feel safer and more welcoming to straightforward discussion.
If creating a safe and comfortable learning environment is the goal of every school, it is vital that students feel secure talking about such relevant and unnerving occurrences.