For students and teachers traumatized by a shooting at their school, or other students and teachers rocked by the news of American school shootings, it can be difficult, even disturbing to return to school. For the concerned parents of worried students, we thought it was important to share the advice of child clinical psychologist Jennifer Greif Green of Boston University.
She is an expert on student mental health and studied the post-traumatic stress of children after violent events.
What to say to kids?
This is a heartbreaking subject to discuss with your children, but a good place to start is just by asking them what they’ve already heard. This way, you’re not necessarily sharing new information while broaching the subject. You’re also hearing where they’re coming from and can validate their feelings while also correcting misapprehensions. From there you can inform them about what’s being done to keep students safe.
What if kids are scared to go back to school?
This is a scary subject, and kids’ feelings on this are valid. It’s important to express this and thank them for sharing. From here, you can express your own trust in them and the institution to which you’re sending them to keep them safe. You can even express this as you’re dropping them off.
How can we help students or teachers who have experienced trauma?
“There are three pieces of training. The first is called Psychological First Aid and is meant to be used in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. The goals are to help reduce initial distress and to stabilize children and families, and to connect them with resources. The second is called Skills for Psychological Recovery, and that is meant to be used in the weeks and months following a disaster—so typically three months or more after a disaster—to help with ongoing distress that many children and their families experience, and to help to re-form a sense of safety and connection to the community. The third is called Child-Adult Relationship Enhancement. And that training is for any children—but is particularly useful and helpful for young children—to help strengthen attachment and relationships between children and parents and other caregivers to reduce behavioral concerns and distress following disasters,” Green said to BU’s The Brink.
To learn more about these free resources, contact Green at email@example.com.
What resources are there to teach teachers to talk to their students about this?
The National Association of School Psychologists has resources on how to talk to students about school shootings, and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network has multilingual guides on how parents, teachers, and caregivers can talk to students about trauma.
“I just want to highlight the need to pay attention to teachers and school staff who are walking back into a workplace where once again they may not feel safe and supported. For us as a community, and especially as a community of educators, we need to be thinking about how to support our teachers, and more broadly, our school staff who are walking into schools and are having these difficult conversations with children,” says Green.