Talking to your kids about the Covenant School shooting

Written by Steph Thurling
Published on March 28, 2023

When I was in college in California, countless of my friends went to Borderline to go line dancing. We held sorority events there. We never felt afraid or unsafe. 10 years later, one student from my university lost her life and several others were injured and traumatized during a mass shooting.

One of my friends was at Route 91 in Las Vegas. She decided to leave a day early, so she missed the final night of the festival and the night that took 60 lives and injured hundreds of others.

An acquaintance of mine attends the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

My brother-in-law hit the ground in New Orleans when gunfire rang out in a safe, family friendly neighborhood during a Mardi Gras parade.

My kids attend a small Christian school and today I wonder, could a shooting happen there, too? How close can we get to a mass shooting before it affects our family on an intimate level?  

I sent my kids off to school this morning with a different mindset, yet again. I hugged them closer and a little longer because there are some parents from Covenant School in Nashville who don’t have kids to hug today.

Pulling away from the bus stop, a million questions and thoughts run through my mind. When something like a school shooting happens, it is normal to ask questions and express concerns. But that doesn’t just apply to us as adults, it applies to our kids too.

Our kids will have questions about what happened at Covenant School and they will likely hear others talking about it, our job is to be a safe place for them to land when they have questions about big, scary, and overwhelming things.

How to talk to your kids about Covenant School

 Tell them age-appropriate facts and then let them ask questions. Start the conversation with your kids by calmly telling them what happened. Use your discretion about how much you tell them, each kid is unique and it will vary by age. You may even need to talk with your kids separately: I will talk with my first grader differently than I will talk with my fifth grader. From there, let them ask questions. Give them the freedom and the space to ask all the questions they want, but you are the parent and it’s okay to set boundaries around how much you share.

Remember, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know” or “that’s a topic for another time.”

Remind them of Gospel truth. When sin entered the world, we were separated from God and our world was broken. With sin comes terrible consequences and evil actions, but God made us a promise of eternal life and a new world when he defeated evil on the cross. So yes, sad things happen in the world, but our hope is not in the world, it is in Jesus. This is hard because we are looking for hope, peace, and restoration right now, but God promises it in his own time.

Read John 16:33 to your kids: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

God is with us in all our feelings. God who promises us restoration is with us in all our emotions and fears. He is not surprised by our fears, our doubts, and our frustrations. Be mindful not to dismiss your feelings or your child’s feelings; instead, address them gently and remind them you are a safe place to feel big feelings.

Try saying: I know this is really hard and really sad. It’s okay to cry and it’s okay to be sad. Remember who our hope is in? Jesus and he will give us peace.”

God wants to talk to us. Remind your kids that God wants to talk with us. Do not underestimate the power of prayer. You’re going to hear a lot over the next few days about gun control and you’re going to hear a lot of people say, “thoughts and prayer are not enough.” I hear that. I feel that in my core, but let me offer an alternative:

Do your part.

Do your research (start here

Advocate for gun reform where you feel led.

Contact your state representatives.

Talk with your kids.

Support your teachers and administration.

But don’t stop there. Eventually, we will stop talking about Covenant School. As massive consumers of media, we will move onto the next thing, but don’t stop praying. Thoughts and prayers may not feel like enough, but it’s the only gift that is eternal and our prayers will not fall on empty ears.

Pray for wisdom.

Pray for the representative you called.

Pray for the families of Covenant School and the Nashville community.

Pray for your school.

Pray for your teachers.

Pray for your kids and your kids’ friends.

Pray for peace and revival in our communities.

Tell your kids: “God wants us to cry out to him and talk to him about everything that is going on in our minds. He knows our hearts. Do you want to talk to him now?”

For more ideas on how to pray for our schools in times like this, read this article.

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Steph Thurling

Steph Thurling is Executive Director of Christian Parenting and host of The Christian Parenting Podcast.

Steph has her master’s in youth, family, and culture from Fuller Theological Seminary and has a background in youth and children’s ministry. She is co-author of Raising Prayerful Kids, a book that shares easy, life-giving, and fun ways to teach kids to pray. She loves helping families grow closer to each other and to God through meaningful experiences and conversations. Steph is a frequent speaker at churches and mom groups and is known for her relatable stories, practical ideas, and gentle encouragement.

Steph lives in Minnesota with her husband and three amazing and hilarious kids. When she is not hanging out with her family, you can probably find her on a walk with a friend, organizing things that won’t stay organized, or somewhere cozy reading a book.

Read more about Steph

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