How Can Parents Help?
Speak to your child about any incidents of school violence, openly and honestly, adapting your conversations to the age of your child. Children deserve honest answers, regardless oftheir age. You do not have to provide every detail, but don’t hold back too much informationeither; instill trust in your child while helping him or her understand what happened. In addition, the following tips may help:
Encourage your child to express his or her feelings.
Children usually feel better when they can talk about their feelings. To help your child sort out his or her feelings, askspecific questions such as “How do you feel? Does it make you feel scared? What worriesyou the most?” Encourage your child to be honest and open, and listen carefully for cluesabout hidden feelings or worries.
Reassure your child.
Respond to your child’s feelings; acknowledge his or her fears; and continually reassure your child that he or she is safe. Stress that this was a rare incident,but avoid making false promises such as “Nothing like this will ever happen to you.”Instead, offer your love, support and guidance and say things such as “I am here to protectyou and to help keep you safe.” In addition, remind your child that his or her teachers andthe police are also looking out for his or her safety.
Monitor the media.
Monitor and limit the amount of television your child watches. If your child sees disturbing footage of incidents of school violence, his or her fears and anxietiesmay escalate.
Speak to your child’s school administrators.
Ask your child’s teachers and/or school principal how they have addressed school violence.Many schools speak to students about safety issues, and reassure them that they aredoing everything possible to keep the children safe.
Pay close attention to your child.
If your child was involved or a witness to an incident of violence, pay close attention to your child’s behavior. If you notice any unusual behavior, itmay be a reaction to stress, fear or trauma. Learn how to recognize warning signs (asdescribed in the next section) and seek professional help from a counselor, social worker,psychologist or other professional if necessary.If your child expresses fear of going back to school, be sympathetic and talk to your childabout his or her anxieties—but convince your child to be brave. Explain that it will take timefor him or her to confront and gradually overcome anxieties—and reassure him or her thatyou will help. In addition, speak to your child’s teacher about your child’s anxieties, and askhim or her to provide additional guidance, support and encouragement. If your child’sschool phobia persists for an extended period of time, consult a professional for additionalguidance and help.
Signs of Anxiety In Children
Children react to fear, stress or trauma in different ways. Children that were directlyinvolved in an incident may suffer from severe anxiety or trauma—and will probably needprofessional help. All children, however, may be affected by the violence. Here are somesigns to watch for in your child:.
- Disrupted sleep patterns—frequent nightmares and/or insomnia.
- Changes in eating habits—loss of appetite or overeating.
- Decline in school performance.
- Lack of concentration.
- Irritability or prolonged depression.
- Separation anxiety.
- Unusual clinginess.
Remember, these symptoms are common reactions to anxiety. However, if symptomspersist for longer than six weeks and disrupt your child’s daily routine, seek help from asocial worker, pediatrician or psychologist. A professional can help your child deal with hisor her emotions and can provide valuable tips and guidance to parents.
an Employee Assistance Program by the Federal Occupational Health (FOA) , a component of the US Public Health Service.