We know how difficult it can be to talk to kids about violence, lockdown drills, and everything in between. We wanna help parents tackle these tough conversations and so we enlisted Christy to answer some of your most pressing questions.
Q: After over a year of isolation how do I help my child transition back to school full-time?
Help them feel empowered and safe physically, mentally and emotionally. Check in with them, check their school’s social media hashtags pages etc. (unfortunately many fights, bullying and unsafe situations are recorded and hash tagged online to bring attention to school from students). Going back most schools have a lower tolerance for bullying violence etc. Empower them to report, not be a bystander to signs they see or things that make them uncomfortable. Create a support system and supportive environment for them and be aware of the signs of changes in behavior and teach kindness, acceptance and understanding of others.
Q: How do I talk to my kids about the violence they see on the news and see in the community?
Violence is not “normal” children and teens have become desensitized to violence by the media, violence at school etc. Watching a fight at school is seen as entertainment and is considered by stander syndrome. Violence is encouraged and normalized to most children and teens and something that is promoted out of boredom to status. Sadly, violence should not be desensitized. Discuss what to do to promote safety for themselves and others in their own environments and community. Set up safety features on their phone to disallow violent content to be accessible. Allow them to be educated on what is going on in the world and community but that does not have to include viewing violence which can cause secondary trauma.
Q: How do I talk to my kid(s) about lockdown drills?
Before the drill: Talking to children before the drill, ask them what they already know and allow them to share and educate you on where they are at mentally, emotionally and educationally regarding lockdown drills to guide the conversation. Ask questions like who are their safety resources in their classroom or school. What makes them feel safe or unsafe. Kids LOVE listening 😊 let them educate you and you fill in the blanks. Ask them what is a safe place for them if it is not school and what makes that a safe place for them.
After the drill: After a drill check in with them see how they feel, look for non-verbal symptoms such as jumping or getting scared easily from household noises or your voice, isolating themselves or not wanting to go to school after due to anxiety. Ex getting startled at the sound of the microwave beep or a loud sound in a movie that they typically would not be affected by. See therapy or utilize therapy at school or out of school if needed to decompress and express thoughts. Have them write about experience and discuss if they do not want to talk openly or are dismissive in suppressing trauma.
Q: My kid has a SPARK™ Shield how do I introduce it to them?
The SPARK™ Shield is an addition to their daily needs and classroom requirements that is light weight and something they can feel safe and secure having. Explain to them the benefits of having the SPARK™ Shield and the technology it has that works in times of needs. (if they play video games, they will already understand the terminology of the technology of the spark shield and how it differs from a notebook)
Q: How do I talk to my kids that have experienced a real lockdown?
After a real lock down, process trauma, life just doesn’t “move on”. Utilize community resources provided ex support groups, therapy resources etc.
They may become more irritable or defiant. Children and even teens may have trouble separating from caregivers, wanting to stay at home or close by them. It’s common for young people to feel anxious about what has happened, what may happen in the future, and how it will impact their lives. Children/Teens may think about this event, even when they try not to. Their sleep and appetite routines may change. In general, you should see these reactions lessen within a few weeks.
Avoid shaming shooter or victims or anyone and focus on remorse and trauma recovery. Avoid asking questions out of curiosity and focus on questions that provide healing and understanding. Before asking questions ask yourself “Am I asking this question out of curiosity or will this promote healing?”
Do not rush the trauma processing processes, back to life as normal or school as normal can take time. Limit Media exposure and making life decisions. Maintain household structure or routine while incorporating rest and time for self-care.
Q: Is there anything you’ve learned in dealing with these tragic events that you can share that would help parents?
Kids need more support than ever during this time regardless if they have experienced a mass shooting or not. Their mental health is top priority over grades, expectations etc. If they are defiant or acting out or participating is risk taking behaviors get to know why, creating a supportive environment that includes boundaries for safety. Allow them space to speak even if that is a thought jar that can be reviewed together at night, dinner together, family activities. Many children felt isolated without the pandemic, misunderstood by their parents or hopeless because they “seem to never do enough.” If a child is forgetful get that checked out by a professional do not assume, they are defiant. If a child is angry why is anger being expressed as a behavior, what is the underlying feeling? Be aware of how you speak about other children or adults when you could be speaking about your own child. Children are very observant of how you talk about others which can create isolation or feelings of personal rejection.
Christy is a trauma informed therapist and mass shooting first responder. She’s helped the victims from the Pulse Night club and Parkland High School shooting. In addition, Christy is Mental Health and Addictions Therapist, published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Human Trafficking Abolitionist. She’s worked with children and teenagers for 15 years in mental health, the criminal justice system and at risk communities with post graduate education from Harvard University. She’s received 2 presidential awards from the President of Mexico and the USA for her efforts in social change!