Active Shooter Training and How to Talk to Grandchildren About Terrorism Are Things We Grandmas All Must Know

stop-violenceThis Grandma has had active shooter training from our brave and courageous local law enforcement. The trainers said to pass along the information to everyone you know. In the last month with the shootings in Paris and California, law enforcement interviewed by news media has passed along the information, especially one female police chief when interviewed, but it seems no one knows it. When I have brought this up to anyone, they have not realized that they were receiving active shooter training from the law enforcement leaders interviewed by the media! It was not explicit enough. We Americans seem to need to be told “this is active shooter training.”

Well, this post contains some basics of active shooter training. Knowing active shooter protocol is not to cause fear, but rather to empower. When one knows what to expect and what to do, one has control, which is the opposite of terrorism. Here is what one needs to remember:






Awareness of one’s surroundings is key. In your workplace, or anywhere you frequent or anywhere you are, think run, hide, fight. If you listen to the news, the first reaction in an active shooter situation seems to be to freeze. Learning run, hide, fight, is the opposite of freezing.

For “run,” in the workplace, for example, look for at least two exits that are available, as one never knows if one exit will be blocked in the unlikely circumstance you might face an active shooter situation. Running is the first choice, if one can run safely. Second, for ‘hide,” set up a hiding place in your workplace now. If you cannot run, know in advance where you are going to hide. Third, arm the hiding place. Put tools, even scissors and letter openers in the hiding place in the unlikely circumstance you ever have to ‘fight.’ Yes, it might make it inconvenient when you need the items, but it will reinforce run, hide, fight.

Why this new protocol? You hear the law enforcement say they will not stop to help the injured anymore as they now know they must first disarm the shooter, as the shooter will continue to shoot and kill. In training, I was told to expect to hide for at least 15 minutes. If discovered, one must fight as the shooter intends to kill as many people as the shooter can. Is this frightening? Yes. This Grandma could not take part in the live demonstration. The thought of having a gun, even in a role play, in my face was too threatening. However, run, hide, fight is what I say to myself when I enter a public building, even a shopping mall. I guess I must add restaurant to that list of locations after Paris.

Do not be naive to think our grandchildren are not being taught run, hide, fight. I know my older grandchildren have learned active shooter protocol at their school. It hurts my heart to know that. We grandmas want to shield our grandchildren from all that is wrong or evil in the world. However, think back to our childhood and how we hid under our school desks in drills in case an atomic bomb hit! Even though the 1950’s were the safest era in the history of mankind, we grew up in the shadow of the Cold War. Resilience is what we need to build in our grandchildren too. Please read the previous post on building resilience.

I want to know how to talk to my grandchildren if they ask me questions about terrorism. This Grandma’s mantra is that grandparenting is all fun and no responsibility. However, sometimes grandchildren feel more comfortable talking to us about their fears. After all, we grandmas work hard to create an environment where our grandchildren can come to us about anything and we will not judge, but make them feel safe and help them as much as we are able. That means that it is likely that we will be asked the questions about terrorism.

Simplicity was again what this Grandma was looking for regarding tips on how to speak to grandchildren about terror. I found it on line here.

Here are the recommendations from Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, who calls herself the “Savvy Psychologist:”

“Parents would like to do everything possible to protect our kids. But we live in a world where 9/11 and ISIS are part of everyday life. So how do we explain terrorist acts and other violence to our children? Let’s work our way through the age groups, from pacifiers and pull-ups to acne and angst. Whether your children are nursing or shaving, your primary goal is to help them feel safe.”

Here’s How According to Dr. Ellen Hendriksen:

This Grandma agrees with Dr. Ellen Hendriksen to shield as much as possible, especially the youngest grandchildren.

“How to Talk About Terrorism with Young Kids”

“Tip #1: Avoid letting young children see disturbing videos. As is developmentally appropriate, the line between fact and fantasy is fuzzy for young kids. In order to prevent needless fears and nightmares, keep the news channel turned off when they’re around. Likewise, put off high-emotion conversations or inflammatory radio about recent events until they’re out of earshot. You may think they’re not even paying attention, but little kids are like sponges: they absorb everything. Get your news about ISIS at work or after the little ones have gone to bed.”

This Grandma agrees with Dr. Ellen Hendriksen to distract as much as possible, especially the youngest grandchildren. Remember, the best way to discipline our youngest grandchildren is to distract them from what they are doing that we do not want them to do.

“Tip #2: If you do walk in to find your preschooler staring at disturbing footage on TV, stay calm. Simply say “Hey, let’s give the TV a rest,” turn it off, and then gently redirect: “Tell me about this drawing you were working so hard on.” Don’t lunge for the remote, cover their eyes, or snap “You shouldn’t be watching that.” If you make it dramatic, it will make more of an impression and create anxiety or guilt.”

This Grandma agrees with Dr. Ellen Hendriksen to show a positive, empowering and safe solution as much as possible, especially the younger play acting grandchildren.

“Tip #3: If your young child re-enacts a tragedy, help him play it out until everyone is safe. For example, if your young son builds a LEGO city and then crushes it, saying it was “bombed,” say, “Time to call in the fix-it crew!” Join him in rebuilding it and then ask how it can be made safe. Perhaps he’ll build a wall, make a couch-cushion shield, or have a toy dinosaur guard it. Especially for younger children, accuracy matters less than feeling safe. Most importantly, drive home the sense of safety non-verbally by offering hugs and cuddles for no reason at all.”

One does not have to tell this Grandma even once to offer hugs and cuddles for no reason at all!

How to Talk About Terrorism with School Age Children, Preteens, and Teens According to Dr. Ellen Hendriksen

This Grandma loves Dr. Ellen Hendriksen’s idea to find out what the grandchildren know before giving any information. This advice works in so many other ways as well. If the grandchild asks an uncomfortable question, turn it around and say, “if you are asking me, it must be important to you. What do you know? Why is it important to you? I have been told I never answer a question, but ask a question in response to a question. That works wonderfully with school age children, preteens and teens. It works well with adults too who may ask you a question you are uncomfortable answering or do not want to answer.

“Tip #4: With older kids, start the conversation by asking what they’ve heard. Especially for teens on social media, you can be sure they’ll hear about recent terrorist events. Use a TV or online story as a prompt, and then ask, “What are people at school saying about ISIS?” Or, if your kids bring it up, clarify what they know by asking more: “What have you heard about that?”
If they say “nothing,” you don’t have to force them to talk. You’re aiming for presence, not pressure. So long as they know you’re a safe, non-judgmental person to whom to talk, conversation will come when they’re ready. If they do tell you what they’ve heard, “Noah said bad guys cut off a guy’s head,” listen for three things: fears, misperceptions, and questions.

How to Deal With Fears and Questions According to Dr. Ellen Hendriksen:

“Tip #5: When you hear fears, normalize their feelings. If they’re scared, say “Lots of kids and even adults feel scared. That was scary.” Don’t say, “Don’t worry about it.” or “There’s nothing to be scared of.” Even if that’s technically true, that’s not how they feel. They’ll feel dismissed and learn you’re not someone who’s safe to talk to.”

“Tip #6: Look for the helpers. Take the advice of the inimitable Mr. Rogers and, in times of tragedy, “Look for the helpers.” Soothe fears by reassuring kids that military, police, or other community helpers they already know are there to protect people no matter what. Likewise, if there is news coverage about someone acting as a hero or helping the survivors, tell them the story. Leave your child with faith in humanity.”

“Tip #7: Highlight distance. Another way to soothe fears is to emphasize the distance between your home and terrorist events. TV brings it right into your living room, and many kids don’t know whether Syria is the next town over or another planet. Use a globe or world map to show how far away the violence is from your city.”

“Tip #8: Possibility versus probability. For older kids who can handle abstract semantics, you can discuss the difference between possibility and probability. Yes, violence and terrorism is possible in the world, but it’s probably not going to happen, especially not in your town. Part of the reason such violent acts make the news in the first place is because they’re so rare.”

“Tip #9: Remind them that most people are good. Soothe fears with reminders that even though terrorists use violence, most people don’t approve of violence as a way to solve problems. Remind them that, of all the people in the world, not many are terrorists and that, in fact, most people are caring and kind and usually find peaceful ways to solve their disagreements. “

How to Deal With Misinformation and Misperception According to Dr. Ellen Hendriksen:

“Tip #10: Gently correct misperceptions. If you find kids are conflating terrorists with a larger group, like all Muslims or all people of Middle Eastern descent, use it as a teachable moment: Take the conversation one step further to discuss prejudice or xenophobia. “Terrorists are people who use violence and make people feel scared. Almost all people who are Muslim are peaceful.”

“Tip #11: Gently correct inappropriate humor. For kids who misperceive the gravity of the situation, like making light of the recent beheadings, first remember that developmentally, younger kids may not be able to truly grasp the concept of death, much less the violent death of innocent people. That said, reinforce that violence is not something to laugh about and that it is always sad for someone to lose his life.”

How to Answer Grandchildrens’ Questions About Terrorism According to Dr. Ellen Hendriksen:

“Tip #12: Listen for fears in their questions. Fears may take the form of questions, like “Could that happen here?” Instead of just saying “No,” give them a more substantial, reasoned answer to make them feel secure. Say, “Thousands of people are working really hard to keep us safe.” Collaboratively think up a list of who these people are – the President, peacekeepers, diplomats, people in the armed forces, special agents, etc. Again, the younger the child, the less accuracy matters. What’s important is that kids leave the conversation with a sense of safety. If your kindergartener wants to add Ninja Turtles to the list of protectors, no problem.”

“Tip #13: Help them take action. Tweens and teens developing a moral view of the world may be particularly disturbed by the injustice. Take their question of “How could anyone do that?” and turn it into action to better the world. Ask if they want to donate to a relief organization, collect school supplies for Iraqi children, or send a care package to the troops. Kids 17 and older can even give blood. Help them feel empowered by taking action or taking a stand.”

This Grandma adds Tip #14: Build Awareness of Surroundings and Teach Run, Hide, Fight to Older Grandchildren and to the Parents of Our Grandchildren

Again, this Grandma’s mantra is that grandparenting is all fun and no responsibility. However, sometimes grandchildren feel more comfortable talking to us about their fears than their parents. We grandmas work hard to create an environment where our grandchildren can come to us about anything and we will not judge, but make them feel safe and help them as much as we are able. That means that it is likely that we will be asked the questions about terrorism. Now we can be prepared thanks to Dr. Ellen Hendriksen and our brave and courageous law enforcement. Point out to the parents of our grandchildren that we are being told and trained when law enforcement speaks to the media. Listen for their mantra, “run, hide, fight.” Point it out to the parents of our grandchildren and the oldest of our grandchildren. Parents’ awareness and knowledge will keep our younger grandchildren safe.

We live in a new world. No, we live in a different world. We have the opportunity to point out that life brings change and challenges. How we meet these changes and challenges is how resilient we are. We want resiliency for our grandchildren. I ended my post on resiliency with

“To this Grandma how resilient our grandchildren are, how they manage adversity and hardship over the life course, their ability to navigate adversity in a manner that protects their well-being, is a combination of genetics enhanced by environment. We can build resilience in our grandchildren. The benefits are clear-into old age even.”

Yes, we want our grandchildren to live to a ripe old age in good health and with great happiness. Terrorism is threatening, but so is a lightning strike or a shark attack. Let’s put life in perspective. . . .but be prepared. Awareness of one’s surroundings is key. And now knowing run, hide, and ADULTS will fight to protect you.


With little joy,



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