February 14th, 2018 there was a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. 17 students and staff were injured or killed during the incident. If your child has witnessed violence or known of violence that has occurred they may be dealing with Trauma or Secondary Trauma. The American Psychological Association defines a Trauma as:
an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event,
shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained
relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea (APA, nd).
The recent shooting falls under the type of Traumatic event considered school violence. School violence includes fatal and nonfatal student or teacher victimization, threats to or injury of students, fights at school, and students carrying weapons to school (NCTSN, nd).
HOW DO YOU HELP YOUR CHILD?
Throughout your conversation with your child, validate their feelings and give them an opportunity to express it.
Promoting Feelings of Safety: Reassure your child that they are safe and that schools are safe.
Talking through it: Make sure that you take the time to talk with your child about this serious event that has happened. If your children did not hear about it from you they have probably heard about it from their friends or someone else at school. Let your child ask the questions that they want and be honest with them.
TIP: If your child is non-verbal or has difficulty verbalizing their thoughts and feelings, provide them with another medium. This medium can include writing, drawing, painting, playing or composing music, dancing, creating a story, expressing through dolls or other figurines, etc. Make sure that the conversation is happening on their level of understanding to help them process their feelings.
Safety Plan: Talk to your child about what to do in dangerous situations whether at home or school. Make sure that you are aware of your schools safety procedures so that you can re-iterate it for them. Review with your child your home safety plan.
Routine: Stick to your normal routine. Keeping to your routine maintains a level of stability in their life.
Pay attention to your child: Be mindful of any changes in your child's emotional state. This may include changes in eating habits, sleeping too much/too little/waking often, bedwetting, isolation, crying frequently, angry outbursts, etc.
Say no to Over-Exposure: Make sure that your children are not being continually exposed to news media coverage and conversations about the incident. This can increase trauma symptoms or be the onset of trauma symptoms. Remember, you are not trying to keep your child from being informed. Due to the developmental state of their brain they may not always have the skills necessary to emotionally cope with the constant bombardment of the event.
TIP: Change the channel, monitor internet activity, limit conversations in the house, car, etc.
LIST OF RESOURCES
Responding to a School Incident
APA: Talking to Your Children about School Violence
NCTSN: Types of Trauma
National Association of School Psychologists
Children's Bereavement Center