It is difficult to shield our children from incessant media coverage increasing their risk of experiencing secondary trauma. Our data-streaming world assures that our kids are well-aware of the most recent school shooting incident. So, how can parents help their kids feel safe at school?
Choose a setting to have a discussion where your child will feel comfortable. Perhaps this will be in the family room or at the kitchen table. While talking, allow the child to guide the discussion. Be honest and don’t make promises that you can’t keep, such as promising you will never allow this to happen to them. Instead, reassure them that you are taking steps to keep them safe. Be sure to stick to the facts. It is important to give them enough age-appropriate details to understand the situation. Discuss with them how low the actual probability is that these incidents occur. Explain that it is normal to feel scared or worried and even share your feelings with them. Help them devise a plan that will help them feel safe. Whether that is sharing your understanding of their school’s safety procedures or preparing them for safety drills at school. Last, it is important to limit their exposure to graphic media coverage as much as possible.
School Safety Resources
There are many resources available to plan your discussion in addition to advocating for changes in policy. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has a list of tips for parents and teachers to help discuss violence with children. Also, NPR recently posted a discussion with one of NASP’s former presidents about tips for discussing terrible things with children. Lastly, Safe and Sound Schools offers many resources to empower parents, including toolkits that explain how they can impact policies to increase school safety. Monitor their mental health status and if their fears do not subside after a few weeks, consider seeking therapy to address their underlying anxiety.