Culturally, we’ve recently witnessed national tragedies involving school shootings and other kinds of community violence, and with it there has been a rise in anxiety in children who may not always feel safe in their schools. This is a generation who have grown up with regular drills for armed intruders or other types of crises, closed entries, and metal detectors, and there can be an inherent sense of fear that our kids experience. Here are some ways that parents can help:
Don’t Try To Fix It
This may go against everything we naturally want to do for our children, but it’s important to not minimize or try to talk the concern away. Instead, hold space for their experience by saying things like, “wow, that’s a big feeling.” For kids who may not yet have the words but you suspect are struggling, you may say, “It looks like you are feeling worried. Can we talk about that?”
Validate Their Emotions
When your child expresses how he/she is feeling about being scared, validate those feelings. The more you can normalize it, the more you give permission for your child to have those emotions. Just knowing that what they’re feeling is “okay” to feel can bring some relief to the anxiety.
Advocate For Your Child
We have to be our children’s biggest voice. There’s a lot of controversy and political divide about how best to proceed after times of tragedy and with school safety in general. It is important as a parent to ask the school about their safety plans and policies and if you notice you child responding in fear or anxiety to the school drills, speak up! If your child’s anxiety appears to be lingering or worsening, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist to help! This can be a lifeline for both of you!