A topic such as school shootings is always difficult to discuss whether you are a parent, student or employee of the school. To honor the fallen and wounded, the truth must prevail. To support healthy emotional growth for students, the truth must be told to them. Yet how you speak with the student will either help or hinder how they assimilate life’s horrific tragedies, the minor scuffles and the ones in-between. This is why I have focused on the true and sound psychological principals to put together this list.
The truth tips
- Validate their feelings. Help them understand all feelings are okay to experience. Give them ample opportunities to speak about their feelings and help the student articulate them in an appropriate manner.
- It is okay to show your emotions, too. Of course, you want to appear as a tough adult. You know, sometimes you just have to let him or her see a softer side of you – a real side. Don’t hide behind a mask.
- Let them express themselves. Not all children and teenagers are always willing to talk with an adult. Other children express their pain and their confusion through creative works as in writing a poem or letter; playing music; still, others may decide that beginning an art project will help them digest what has just happened.
- You need to know when to enjoy the silence. Some kids like to be expressive while others are just quiet by nature and have nothing to say, nothing to draw, no music to play. The bottom line is we have different ways to survive this world. Remember: always be there even if it is to sit on the patio with your student and watch quietly a thunderstorm in the distance light up the night sky.
- Be mindful of the way you answer your student. A second grader needs a different hand to guide him or her than an 11th grader.
- Review safety methods. When you review, include both school and home. Help your student to identify someone at school, as well as the community who he/she feels they can trust if their school became ground zero in a school shooting.
- Keep an eye out for any changes. Watch for changes in behavior, appetite and sleep habits. These could all be symptoms of improperly processing emotions to a tragedy. If you are concerned, you need to call a doctor right away.
- In this day-and-age, people crave information. If you told your teenager you are limiting his time on the internet, what would he say? He would laugh all the way to school with his smartphone in his hand. You should probably put parental locks on the internet for the little ones. Make yourself available to your teenager when he/she comes home from seeing a YouTube video at a friend’s house. If she knows you are available she will feel free to ask her questions to you instead of going somewhere else.
- Keep the normal routine for everybody. The routine a student has preparing for school or getting ready for soccer practice is very important. They need structure. They will feel confident in the established routine and give them a boost for the school day.
- At the end of the day, you are still an adult. Ms. “Middle School Softball” needs her girlfriends from the team in order to relate at their level the hysteria that was just pronounced on another school. Mr. “High School Swimmer” will go to his swim teammates to hash out the details of the awful news. Don’t be mad or upset and start World War III in your house. Be understanding. Think how you would feel in his/her shoes.
- When I was researching this topic, I found varying opinions on what you should say to a student about safety in times of crisis. Some psychologists took the “Pollyanna” approach and said the child is safe, your school is completely safe, no worries! This attitude by the authors was due to the fact the schools all have security guards, a school resource officer as well as cameras. These individuals are not all infallible and neither are the cameras. Your teenager will probably see right through the smoke screen. I stumbled upon one response by a professor that I liked. Our home is safe and your school is safe. However, there are bad people in this world.
School shootings should not be taken lightly. Placing students in this environment and expecting them to bounce back is not being responsible. Students clear across the country from the location of a recent school shooting could develop various mental illnesses just as easily as the students in the targetted school building. These mental health issues may include: PTSD, an anxiety disorder, depression or even OCD. The schools and government will work out the plans and laws for school shooters (hopefully sooner than later). You set up a plan for your student and there will be some sense of structure and a calmness in the midst of the chaos even if it is a drill.
Call to action
What are your thoughts on the growing epidemic regarding school shootings? I would love for you to weigh in on what you think about this issue plaguing our schools. You may write your viewpoints in the comments section or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org