Yesterday, the news of the two unrelated shootings at Scotlandville Magnet and Zachary High got extensive media coverage. The news spread like wildfire among school students all around the area via social media. For those of us who have teens and pre-teens, here’s a heads up. Your child may be experiencing some uneasiness - and perhaps anxiety - about the two incidents; hiding their inner feelings.
According to Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, there are some things we as parents can do.
1. Encourage children to talk about their concerns and to express their feelings. Some children may be hesitant to initiate such conversation, so you may want to prompt them by asking if they feel safe at school. Make sure what they have heard from their peers is NOT fake news based on rumor.
2. Talk honestly about your own feelings regarding school violence. It is important for children to recognize they are not dealing with their fears alone.
3. Validate the child’s feelings. Do not minimize a child’s concerns. Let him/her know that serious school violence is not common, which is WHY these incidents attract so much media attention. Stress that schools are safe places. In fact, recent studies have shown that schools are more secure now than ever before.
4. Empower children to take action regarding school safety. Encourage them to report specific incidents (such as bullying, threats or talk of suicide) and to develop problem solving and conflict resolution skills.
5. Discuss the safety procedures that are in place at your child’s school. Explain why visitors sign in at the principal’s office or certain doors remain locked during the school day. Help your child understand that such precautions are in place to ensure his or her safety and stress the importance of adhering to school rules and policies.
6. Help identify which school administration people your child can talk to if they feel threatened at school. Also ensure that your child knows how to reach you (or another family member or friend) in case of crisis during the school day, and remind your child that they can talk to you anytime they feel threatened.
7. Recognize behavior that may indicate your child is concerned about returning to school. Younger children may react to school violence by not wanting to attend school or participate in school-based activities.
8. Teens and adolescents may minimize their concerns outwardly, but may become argumentative, withdrawn, or allow their school performance to decline. Seek help when necessary. If you are worried about a child’s reaction or have ongoing concerns about his/her behavior or emotions, contact a mental health professional at school or at your community mental health center.