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Guns, schools, and protecting children:
AAP and teens call for action
By Alison Knopf
On February 14, 17 children and adults were
shot and killed and 15 were injured inside Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said this:
“We find ourselves once again filled with grief and hor-
ror, and we mourn alongside all those impacted by the
shooting. As our hearts are in Parkland, our eyes are on
The AAP continued, “We can start by working to
advance meaningful legislation that keeps children safe.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates for
stronger state and federal gun laws that protect children,
including a ban on assault weapons like the one used in
yesterday’s school shooting. We also call for stronger
background checks, solutions addressing firearm traf-
ficking, and encouraging safe firearm storage. We will
also continue to work to ensure that children and their
families have access to appropriate mental health ser-
vices, particularly to address the effects of exposure to
“Although these mass shootings command our atten-
tion, our children remain at risk daily for suicide, homi-
cide, and unintentional injury because of the current
policy regarding access to guns in the United States.
Gun violence is a public health threat to children, and
one the American Academy of Pediatrics will continue
to take on, in state capitals across the country and in the
halls of Congress. Parents across the United States send
their children to school every day, and hope and trust
they will be safe. As long as children continue to be
injured and killed by guns in this country, pediatricians
will not rest in our pursuit to keep them safe.”
Politics aside, what do you say to your children?
After any disaster, parents and other adults struggle
with what they should say and share with children and
what not to say or share with them.
The AAP encourages parents, teachers, child care
providers, and others who work closely with children
to filter information about the crisis and present it in a
way that their child can accommodate, adjust to, and
Regardless of the age, parents can start by asking a
child what they’ve already heard, says the AAP. After
you ask them what they’ve heard, ask what questions
Older children, teens, and young adults might ask
more questions and may request and benefit more from
additional information. But no matter what age the
child is, it’s best to keep the dialogue straightforward
Avoid graphic or unnecessary, tragic details. Avoid
graphic images. In particular, keep young children away
from repetitive graphic images and sounds.
If you want your older children to watch the news,
the AAP recommends that you record it ahead of time,
preview it, and then sit down with them to watch it. You
can stop and discuss when you need to.
You can only have so much control. You can’t block
children from seeing the newspaper on the newsstand.
You can’t block their phones. You just need to be aware
of what they might see.
Special needs children
The AAP has specific recommendations for children
with special needs.
Parents who have a child with a developmental delay
or disability should gear their responses to their child’s
developmental level or abilities, rather than their physi-
cal age. If you have a teenage child whose level of
intellectual functioning is more similar to a 7-year-old,
for instance, gear your response toward her develop-
mental level. Start by giving less information. Provide
details or information in the most appropriate and clear
way you can.
What’s helpful to a child with an autism spectrum
disorder may be different. For instance, the child may
find less comfort in cuddling than some other children.
Parents should try something else that does calm and
comfort their child on other occasions. Ask yourself,
“Given who my child is, his personality, temperament,
and developmental abilities, what might work for him?”