There was a shooting today, on May 30th, 2018 at midday in the quiet university town of Uppsala, Sweden’s 4th largest city. It was directly outside Max’s nursery, not far from my older two children’s school.
Two people were injured, the police are calling it an assassination attempt, two of Max’s nursery teachers witnessed the event. It’s a shock to everyone! The children don’t seemed to have witnessed or sensed anything: They were told that they are inside, instead of playing out as they usually do, because it’s too hot.
When I picked Max up, I bumped into a close friend who was very upset by the whole thing, angry that it happens and it happens in a traditionally pacifist country like Sweden.
On our drive home I felt we needed to have a repeat of our chat we had when we went to the US in Spring, just a little more in depth, as my children are very naive and trusting.
From the autumn they will be walking, scooting or cycling home near the area where this shooting happened… and no, I am not going to be able to walk them every single day! Not for my sake, nor for the sake of their independence. We needed to hav e the “what happens if there is a shooting?” discussion.
So what did we discuss:
The Uppsala shooting
It was a good opportunity for me to introduce the shooting in a gentle way, as gently as a people trying to kill each other in real life with a gun can be explained!
We talked about how different people are influenced by their experiences- real life experiences and imaginary experiences through violent films and games. We avoided stereotypes. I also explained how unlikely it is to happen again, yet it is still important to understand what to do if it does happen again.
What kids should do to avoid a shooting:
1) Travel with awareness
We spoke about our senses and how they are there to protect us. Therefore if we are walking along the street with music blurring through our headphones or our head in our smartphone, then we are distracted, we don’t see or hear things that may give us an early warning of danger. So we came up with the rules:
- no headphones while out and about
- spend as little time as possible on your phone
- look around and know where you are
These are also excellent rules for traffic awareness.
2) Avoid conflict situations
If you see some conflict around you, especially if it involves any sort of weapon, very quickly give it a wide berth and avoid getting caught in the middle.
3) Stay safe
In case the violence escalates: find a safe place!
If you hear gunfire: hit the ground! Don’t just duck down, jump down flat!
4) Call the police
When it is safe to do so: call the police… but only when it is safe to do so and you don’t put yourself in danger.
The number to call emergency services is 112 throughout Europe.
Angelina was teaching her little brother:
“You have one mouth, one nose and two eyes, 1 1 2“;
Hugo remembers it as, ” 1 plus 1 is 2“.
We did a little role play about calling the police- discussing that they need to say who they are, where they are and what’s happened/ happening.
Angelina, rightly, brought up the scenario of what to do if you can’t really talk. My only suggestion was to whisper “help, help, help!” into the phone and leave the line open for the operator to hear what was happening and for the phone to be traced. (I hope this was the right advice… please comment below if you know the procedure.)
It’s really hard discussing a shooting, and violent crime in general, with such young children. Their childhood should be free from such worries, and it predominantly is. I think we are lucky to be in a safe country, where gun crime is so rare. Yet, children do need to know the realities of the wider world. We do them more disservice if we shield them totally from the atrocities. Now, I’m not advocating having them subjected to the often sensationalist news, focused on the ugliness of the world rather than the balance of good and bad. Afterall, it’s bad news that keeps people’s attention, not good news. We, as parents, have a duty to help our children gain awareness of how bad humans can be, as well as how amazingly good they are more often. How you do it will depend on your child and their ability to process things. I decided that my 6 year old needed to hear just as much as his sensitive, dreamy, yet sensible 11 year old sister.
Read also: Do you let your children watch the News?, relating to the Oslo shootings and my then 4 year old daughter
This is new territory for me, please let me know your thoughts in the comments below:
Have you had the “what do you do in a shooting” discussion with your kids? What advice did you give them?
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