Guns and School Shootings, a Hard Conversation.

I married a gentle, quiet man, who grew up hunting and fishing. We have five sons. At eight-years-old, our boys get to go hunting with him. They learn how to prepare for hunting by studying deer behavior and patterns in the woods and they get to watch gun preparation and care. They also get to shoot at a local gun range. When the time comes they sit with my husband while he hunts.

By age nine, if they have earned the privilege through trust and developed skill, they get to hunt with my husband. Last fall our third born got his first deer. Between my husband and oldest three sons, we have six deer to eat for the year and were able to give one away. As a family, we own nine hunting guns. They are kept in a gun safe under lock when not used.

With four hunters in our family, we have talked about guns in our home for years. Due to national news reports and curious children, we have talked about shootings in our home for at least two years. The increased news regarding police-officers and deaths began the conversation. School shootings have continued the conversation. It is a conversation no one wants to have.

I remember where I was when the Paducah, KY school shooting was on the news December 1, 1997. It seemed unreal.

I remember where I was when the Columbine school shooting was announced April 20, 1999. It was horrifying.

Last week, I was home with two sick kids when the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida was announced. It was no longer unreal or horrifying. It was too normal for me and my kids.

People said nothing would change. If nothing changed after Sandy Hook, then we were doomed to simply be a nation riddled with school shootings. But something has changed.

This most recent school shooting followed by countless copy-cat threats, one in my own county, has awoken us to the reality that this is not a problem for some, but a problem for me, for all of us.

20 years of increased school shootings and threats of shootings have pushed us to action. We are no longer reeling from the shock, we are moving into action.

For some that will mean speaking out and marching like kids in Florida.

For most of us, that will mean we choose to engage this hard conversation with our kids because we must.

How do we have this hard conversation with our kids?

Five practices from A Life Shared: Meaningful Conversations with Our Kids can guide you through this hard conversation.

Embrace the awkward. Kids are dying in schools. My school district handled a threat last weekend. No one wants to talk about this, but we really don’t have that luxury anymore. Talk about it as adults. There is a huge role in this conversation for Adult Conversation Only (ACO). Talk about it as a family, family conversation only (FCO). Talk about it more pointedly with your older kids, one-on-one conversation.

Be honest. Yes, our kids could live through a school shooting. They know that. It’s time for us to empower innocence in our kids without being naïve as parents. Share your feelings with one another as adults. Let your kids share their feelings with you.

Keep it simple. Only answer the questions your kids ask or address one point if you began the conversation. Do not turn the conversation into a monologue where you sound like Charlie Brown’s school teacher “waa waa waaa” because your kids will check-out. Sometimes naming something and letting your kids know you are there for them is enough to begin the conversation. This is not a one-and-done kind of conversation.

Use terms that make sense to them. This will vary for different age kids. Just make sure you talk at their level with vocabulary they understand. If you need to introduce a new word, define it in simple terms.

Present the facts, just the facts. This is the hardest part of this conversation. This conversation has so many feelings in and around it. But there are facts. What are the facts? What news sources are reliable? How do you define the terms being used in the conversation? Do you know what an assault rifle is? This conversation requires education. Because my oldest sons know more about guns than I do, I ask them a lot of questions and learn a lot from them. We are doing research and creating reasons for our actions and concerns. Our children will soon be adults. This hard conversation can be a true empowerment for who they choose to be and the way they shape their community.

This conversation has been sustained for us as a family with each new shooting and sincere questions our children have asked. With two middle schoolers, we choose to inform them of shootings instead of them hearing about them from other kids at school.

We want to be there for them with any questions or concerns they have. We do not have all the answers, but we can make space for them to ask questions and share their hearts. We can share this part of life with our kids.

“Ultimately, this hard conversation invites us to live by faith. Life is full of unknowns, loss of control, circumstances no one wanted. When we name those things, when we admit our lack of knowing, when the answer is one thing, but we wish it was another, we can reach out in faith as a family to the One who sees, hears, and knows. We can talk with Him and walk by faith with our kids.

I would rather walk by sight, but for now I must walk by faith through this hard conversation. If we walk together with our faith in the One who is faithful, the hard conversations can only enrich us because we are facing them together.”

Guns and school shootings are a hard conversation. There are no easy answers and so many questions. Be safe space for your kids to wonder out loud.

Sometimes safe space is all they need. Sometimes talking through hard things leads to action that brings safety so many desperately long for.

Be encouraged. You are not alone. Other families are having this hard conversation too.


This is an excerpt from my book, A Life Shared: Meaningful Conversations with Our Kids. I may share these for a while. Why?

Right now, I “don’t get it right.” ALOT. Grief because I miss my dad, walking with friends through their heartaches, childhood woes that tempt me to parent out of hurt rather than love, and weariness with “getting it wrong” tempt me to condemn myself. Ever been there? I need this reminder.


It’s not about getting it right.

Who do you share your life with? Friends who constantly teach you things, correct all the little mistakes you make, tell you how to feel, turn down your invitations, do not follow up with you, call you by the wrong name, and treat you like less than a person? People who yell at you when they are upset and tired?

This is not who we long to be, but as parents this is who we can very easily be toward our kids. I have been this momma.

Constantly correcting, answering “I can’t right now” to countless invitations. I rarely call them by their actual name, and forget to follow-up with them. The oldest child jokes I couldn’t get their names right if they wore name tags.

I have momma victories and epic-fails. How we relate to our kids is so very important, but we don’t always get it right as parents.

One night I accidentally humiliated one of the kids. Afterward I said, “Well that was probably my worst momma-moment.” Three kids looked at me and announced in unison, “Uh, no.” “Oh,” I stuttered in embarrassment. I was embarrassed, but grateful too. Grateful our relationship could weather my short-comings and allow honest conversation about who we are and how we relate as a family.

Be encouraged. Parenting is not about “getting it right.” It is about confessing your sin, saying you are sorry, and starting again. It is about love overcoming our failings and fears. It is about choosing again to be the parent our kids want to share life because we encourage conversation especially when the conversation starts with “I’m sorry.”

Be encouraged. Kids are exceedingly resilient and forgiving. Love truly does wash over many, many sins.

Live a life shared – the good, the bad, and the ugly – because that is the fullness of life.

LET’s TALK about “THE TALK.”

I know. It’s like going to the dentist. We know we need to, but most of don’t want to.

In 2012, I wrote “How to Teach Your Kids About Sexuality: A Much Needed Conversation” to encourage families to make the talk a conversation in their home.

When our nation officially shifted the definition of marriage the summer of 2015, I wrote “The Longing for Sexual Teaching in the Church.”

April 2016, “THE TALK: Embrace the Sacred Gift” launched. In this 3 ½ hour workshop, God is doing something.

WHAT WE TALK ABOUT AT “THE TALK: Embrace the Sacred Gift.”

Do you want to talk with your kids about sex, but don’t know how? THE TALK is for you.

When should you have “the talk”? Research tells us the sooner the better, but it’s never too late. I began the conversation with my kids in infancy. It continues to this day. The workshop is filled with lots of examples and tips for talking with kids at different ages.

What kind of language is appropriate and helpful? Words matter. THE TALK invites you to determine the language that works best for your family.

What does God say about our bodies and sexual intimacy between husband and wife? That’s where THE TALK begins.

Do you want simple language to talk about complicated issues like LGBTQ? Sexual identity vs. Gender?  THE TALK offers that through examples, interactive conversation, role play scenarios, and open question and answer.

And how do we answer our kids’ questions? Four effective steps are presented as a guide for any hard conversation.

THE TALK: Embrace the Sacred Gift is not really about sex and anatomy at all. It is about empowerment for family conversations and discipleship for each of us to be the person God created us to be.

To attend the next community-wide workshop register here.

Is Central Kentucky too far to drive? Contact me.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING about “THE TALK: Embrace the Sacred Gift”

“Laying a simple foundation, layer by layer over time, …has made it so much easier to walk through the tough topics when they come up (homosexuality, trans-sexuality, etc.). I just wish we’d taken The Talk seminar earlier!”

 The Talk has the potential to positively transform the lives of so many, both children and the families that love them at a time when the world at large makes it so difficult for Christians to choose a different path from secular society.”

“I have 6 kids and 2 soon to be foster kids ages 9-18 and although we have been purposely open in talking about sex with our kids we found this talk INCREDIBLY helpful and truly a joy to attend. We learned so much. I felt like Ellen gave us new ideas and ways to talk to our kids about the gift of sex and how to communicate with them better in general.”

 “We went to this and learned so much about how to talk to our kids about these things in an everyday, healthy way. It was encouraging to hear about the importance of conveying sex as a gift from God rather than the way our culture has distorted it for our children.”

 “I love how down to earth Ellen is and how much she shares from her own personal life. I especially appreciate her ability to meet her audience at all different levels and give us confidence for talking with our kids.”

The Talk is a great investment for parents. Our kids are bombarded by messages about sex—many of which are destructive. It’s important that we as parents make space for our kids and share truth in love. Ellen’s workshop helps to re-frame these ongoing conversations in light of God’s perfect design, empowered by practical resources. Reserve your spot at her next workshop today.”