School is back in session, and parents everywhere are sighing with the welcomed quiet in the house. It is an exciting time of year, getting back into the swing of a routines and doing all the things to get the kids ready to learn. However, now parenting includes the frequent concern of whether our children will be safe at school. It also brings the start of fire drills, tornados drills, and school shooting drills. The last is not something I ever had to deal with as a child. I remember sitting in hallways with my head between my legs for the tornado drills, and the loud sirens as we neatly filed out of the school for the fire drills. But I have never experienced the need to practice being as quiet as possible to wait for police and avoid being shot while hiding, not knowing whether this is a drill or not.
“I specialize in trauma and while of course I want my children, all children and staff for that matter, to stay safe in the event of a school shooting, I can’t help but realize how traumatizing it is for our children to even have to go through a drill of this nature”
I specialize in trauma and while of course I want my children, all children and staff for that matter, to stay safe in the event of a school shooting, I can’t help but realize how traumatizing it is for our children to even have to go through a drill of this nature. The unknown is one factor that sets off our trauma brain leading us to fight, flight or freeze and our children are being exposed to this on a regular basis. Then, when the drill is over they go back to learning. I question how much learning occurs for all the children following these drills. I understand the way the trauma brain works, and as a parent and community member I want to do better to support my child, her classmates, and school.
Here are a few ideas about ways to support your children around these drills.
- Educate yourself about how trauma impacts children and how it can look different. A child experiencing stress will most likely not come home and say “hey mom, we had a lockdown drill and I feel really stressed about it”. What you might see are behaviors of increased energy, irritability or moodiness, and/or increased clinginess.
- Talk to your child’s school. Often the school will notify the family when a drill of this nature has occurred. If you have questions reach out to your school principal, social worker, or psychologist. Inquiring about how the school talks to the children about these drills and what supports they may offer. This can be empowering and helpful.
- Talk to your child. This may seem like an obvious one, however many parents I have worked with are not sure how to have a conversation about drills of this nature. Many parents did not have to practice these types of drills so there is little reference for where to start. Encouraging your child to talk about what this experience is like for them, while providing acceptance and empathy of their experience is a powerful way to support your child.
- Take time for your own self-care. This may be the most important item on this list. Simply put, if you do not invest in managing your own stress, you will not be able to attune to and support your child the way you want to when they are stressed. In addition to this, remember that children learn how to manage their stress from watching what their loved ones do. Modeling self care is so important, it keeps us regulated so we are more aware of what our children may be telling us through their behavior and encourages your child to practice healthy skills.
“Building a strong community starts with the individual. It’s time for us, as parents to lead by example and be the change our children so desperately need”
Unfortunately there is no simple fix to this societal issue that many of our communities are being impacted by. Communication it the first step to understanding how you, as a parent, can support your child and their school. If things feel overwhelming, or you are concerned your child may be experiencing more intense emotions from these drills therapy can help. I often coach parents around ways to have these discussions in an age appropriate manner and provide a safe place for children to express their worries and fears. For additional information about childhood trauma you can visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network at https://www.nctsn.org. Building a strong community starts with the individual. It’s time for us, as parents to lead by example and be the change our children so desperately need. If you or your child needs support please contact me at 720-515-3904. The world can be a scary place, you don’t have to navigate it on your own. Call today for a free consultation.