In fact, between Oregon, Paris, and San Bernadino, it’s time to add how to talk about gun violence to our parenting repertoire. I don’t claim to have all the answers—no one does, but here are eight tips to answer kids’ tough questions.

A couple of weeks ago, my 7-year-old had an anonymous threat of gun violence directed at his school district. Nothing came of the threat, and the teachers, school administrators, and authorities reacted swiftly and bravely. But getting emails with FBI updates and seeing uniformed police officers guarding the one not-locked-down entrance to his elementary school isn’t how I envisioned my son’s first grade year.

Needless to say, he and I have done some talking. And the hardest part of the conversation wasn’t how to bring it up or how to help him feel safe (see How to Talk to Kids About Terrorism for those), but rather, how to handle the tough questions. Kids are smart—they’re pint-sized philosophers trying to wrap their heads around all the good and bad that comes with this world. Gun violence is hard to explain no matter their age, but for younger kids in particular, they still want a concrete answer.

So let’s tackle two of the most common questions, which (parents, lucky us) are also the hardest to answer:


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