Parent to Parent: Reassuring kids when there is a threat of violence on campus

 Violent school threats can breed fear, and anxiety for children. While the vast majority of these threats are anonymous and turn out to be hoaxes, they have to be investigated and taken seriously. Lab parent, and psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Kieff, shares the following advice on how to discuss violent school threats with children.

“Hope this is helpful it was written by a social worker and child psychiatrist not affiliated with Lab but I think very good for age appropriate kids – it is what I will be saying to my kids, ages seven and ten.” (Elizabeth Kieff)

Guys – a surprising thing happened. School is cancelled for today.

You know that the University of Chicago Police Department is one of the very best police departments in the country? (yes they are) well, they got some information about someone who posted something on the internet about wanting to bring a gun to campus. Unfortunately, there are people who get angry about something and sometimes they write something on the internet about what they want to do when they are angry. Often, that angry person calms down and nothing ever happens, But, the University and the Lab School really want to be extra safe, so they’re telling everyone to take the day off while they make sure it’s all ok.

So, for today, we’re going to have an expected extra day off from school. We’re going to Evanston to . . .

What are your questions?

Are we safe now?

Yes – we are safe right now. If there was any reason to think we weren’t safe, your Dad and I WOULD NOT be sitting here with you. We’d already be gone. We are safe.

Will we be safe later?

Yes – we will only come back to school and the quad and other places on campus after the University has said that everything is safe and back to normal. The police are working with the FBI – which are the police for the country – to make extra sure everything is ok on campus. The are taking a lot of extra steps to check everything to be sure we’re all safe.

What about our house?

No one is mad at us. Someone is mad at the University. Our house is perfectly safe.

Why is someone mad at the University or Lab School?

We don’t know. I could be a lot of different reasons, but none of the reasons have anything to do with our family.

Why do we have to leave instead of staying home?

It’s better to be in a neighborhood where there aren’t a bunch of extra police checking everything out if we’re going to have fun or relax today. This just gives the police the space they need for checking everything on campus and us the space we need to run around and stuff.

How can you be sure we’ll be safe here later?

You guys know that parents can’t make an absolute promise. We all know that accidents can happen and bad guys sometimes do bad things. The important thing to know this time is that someone was angry and TOLD the university police BEFORE they did anything. They will be stopped because the police got a warning.