You never thought you’d be terrified to send your kids to school. You’re frightened by the gun violence. You wonder: Could my child’s school be next? Now, you have to decide whether to allow them to participate in the National School Walkout.

The Students Speak Up

In the wake of the shooting that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL,  students have added their voices to the conversation. For many, this might include plans to participate in National School Walkouts. `Some protests have been scheduled for March 14th (one month anniversary of the Parkland shooting). Others will be held on April 20th (19th anniversary of Columbine shooting). The purpose of such walkouts might mean something a little different to everyone, but overall is meant to honor the lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as well as to initiate conversation and change regarding gun violence.

Deciding Whether to Let Your Child Participate

As a parent, how will you decide whether to allow your child to participate in this day of protest if their school plans to take part? How can you talk to your teen about your decision? Here are some suggestions about how to navigate this decision-making process:

  1. Know the Facts. Conversation about gun violence is occurring all throughout the schools, among teens and their peers. As you can imagine, much of the information that is being discussed is not completely accurate, but is passed along as though it is. Make sure you and your teenager understand the facts about what the day of protest means. Here is a non-partisan explanation:
  2. Continue the Conversation at Home. The overwhelming purpose of these protests is to give teenagers a platform to make their voices heard. Creating time at home to listen to your teen’s opinions can be an invaluable experience, not only for your child, but for you, as well! Listening to their perspective and understanding their reasons for wanting to participate or not will help your teen feel heard, which is important during this developmental age.
  3. It’s Okay to Disagree With Your Teen.  Listening to and understanding your teen’s perspective does not mean that you have to agree! Adolescence is an important age to start learning how to have conversations with others who have different opinions. Parents can model this by calmly sharing their own opinions, whether they are somewhat similar or completely different. Utilize this time to share some of your concerns, if you have any.
  4. Weigh Your Options. Take time away from this conversation with your teen to weigh the options. Ultimately, it is your decision about whether you would like your child to participate. Talk to the school to determine what the plan will be for students who will not be participating, as well as the plan for students who will be participating.
  5. Determine Other Ways to Create Change. Whether you will give permission for your teen to participate in the protests or not, these conversations can lead to creative alternatives to help encourage your child to reach their goals. Letter-writing, phone calls and volunteering are just some ideas about how your child can find their voice in other ways.
  6. Make a Plan for That Day. Whether your child will be participating or not, be mindful about creating a plan for what that day will look like for them. Where will they be going? What kinds of conversations might be had? How can they be respectful of those with different opinions? Most important, how can they keep themselves safe?

If you and your child are butting heads over differences of opinion, our counselors at the Couples and Family Wellness Center can help. Contact us to discuss whether family therapy or individual counseling is right for you and your child.