School violence and threats of violence are scary and seem to be happening more and more frequently, but the fortunate reality is that they remain rare. I'm almost telling myself this like a chant -- trying to keep myself centered. Because like many other parents I've talked to, instead of worrying about my son getting lice at school I kiss him good-bye and say a blessing for safety. Happened today again.
2015 has been hard for all of us in this respect. The increased media discussions about violence are shaking us up and focusing light on violence, especially from guns and mass shootings, in ways no one ever wanted or could imagine.
Although mass shootings are dreadfully more common now than in the past, the rate of crime at U.S. schools that involve physical harm has been declining since the early 1990s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fewer than 1% of all homicides among school-age children happen on school grounds or on the way to and from school. The vast majority of students will never experience violence at school or in college.
Still, it's natural for kids and teens (and those who adore them, feverishly) to worry about whether something may happen to them. To help them deal with these fears, it's important to talk to children who are in the know when these tragedies happen, and to know what your kids watch or hear about them. This helps put frightening information into context. This helps build trust.
"Children should be informed about a disaster as soon as information becomes available. Children can sense when critical information is being withheld and when trusted adults are not being genuine; this, in turn, undermines their trust and sense of safety and compromises the ability of these adults to be later viewed as a source of support and assistance. Even very young children or those with developmental disabilities can sense the distress of trusted adults. Children also often overhear or otherwise learn information about the events, such as through the Internet or social media or from conversations with other children. We probably need to shift the conversation sometimes away from talking our children out of having legitimate concerns to how do you deal with your concerns." ~Dr. David Schonfeld
8 Tips To Support Your Children's Understanding Of School Violence
- Keeping perspective and cool. Hearing about events like LA Public Schools lockdown, the horrific Newton shooting fresh in our mind at the 3-year anniversary and the Marysville-Pilchuck shootings in Seattle makes us feel increasingly vulnerable. Today at Seattle Children's Hospital I talked with a mom who told me just last week her child had a lockdown at their school. Because many of our children do school "lockdown drills" this is becoming a part of all of our lives. Perception gets skewed in this awareness and preparation. Acknowledge this feeling and ask your children about how they feel. Check yourself that you're listening more than you're talking. Many children just want a sounding board and need time to process. These big conversations are just as important as little ones they want to have so when possible let your child lead the way.