ChesterCountyMedicine Spring 2018 - 17

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W

e are faced with yet another school shooting in
Florida with at least 17 dead and many injured,
including both staff and students. Our heart goes
out to the victims and their families as losing a child or family
member in this manner is unimaginable. Social media is already
running rampant as parents, schools, and children are fearful
and wonder what they could (or should) do if they ever find
themselves in a similar situation. As school shootings seem to be
increasing in frequency, these conversations are becoming more
necessary.

Social Media
During a critical incident, such as a school shooting,
children are understandably on their phones. In Florida, some
children were texting loving messages to family members. While
that is understandable, it is important to have conversations
with children about what not to do. For example, explain to
children that posting videos of those who are injured can be
devastating to families who don't yet know that perhaps their
own child is injured or even dead.
Further, posting graphic images increases the traumatizing
potential for other children. There is no reason to unnecessarily
expose others to the violence. In the same light, it is important
for parents to monitor what your children are watching and
to limit viewing of horrific events. Vicarious traumatization
is real and can happen by viewing too many graphic images
online. As this is also true for adults, take this opportunity to
model behavior by restricting your own viewing of potentially
traumatizing pictures and videos.
Finally, when law enforcement teams are on the scene, their
first priority is to find and either capture or take down the
shooter before more lives are lost. It is common for students
to take videos of law enforcement from their classrooms. For
example, students in a third floor classroom may see officers on
a roof below searching for the perpetrator. Please realize and
have conversations with your children that if they post these
videos, they may be informing perpetrators as to the location
of officers. This can infringe upon law enforcement's ability to
capture the shooter which could lead to even more deaths.

What to say to
your children
According to the National Association for School
Psychologists, one of the most important things to do is make
time to talk to your child. We know that adolescents often
prefer to talk to peers, but reinforce to them that you are
available. You know your child best, so use language that is
developmentally appropriate and understandable to your child.
Be careful not to make assumptions about how your child is
feeling. Instead, asking questions, such as "what is your biggest
concern/fear in hearing about this incident?" Will open the
door to communication. Further, help children understand
common symptoms of distress, including difficulties sleeping or
eating, and ask them to share with you if they are struggling.
Along with standard fire drills, many schools are beginning
to do active shooter drills. These should not be scary events
for children, but provide them a sense of control. Further,
ensure children know to go to an adult should they ever feel
threatened, see weaponry or trespassers in the building, or hear
of threatening statements, either in person or online, that are
cause for alarm. Many schools are also moving toward more
trauma-informed approaches due to the realization that many
perpetrators of violence have experienced trauma in their own
lives.
The increase of school shootings is terrifying for everyone.
Remember that children feed off of the response of adults, so
while it is great to model appropriate expression of our own
confusion, dismay, and sadness, it is important that adults
maintain control. Adults can also model good coping strategies
and self-care such as eating well, exercising, and sleeping.
Finally, as consistency and normalcy help children feel safe, keep
routines and structure as typical as possible. It is unimaginable
that our children must face the tragedy of mass murder in
schools. Let's try to make them feel as safe as possible in our
loving arms.

SPRING 2018 | CHESTER COUNT Y Medicine 17


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