The beginning of the school year is full of little things that make the early fall magical; the weather is still warm, the days are still somewhat long, the trees start to turn brilliant colors and morale is high, for parents and children alike.
In addition to the excitement of the school year we can’t forget safety checks and balances. For years fire drills and even tornado drills keep our teachers on their toes and our kids safe. Unfortunately since the U.S. has seen a sharp increase in violent threats made to schools, we now include lock-down drills in our new school routine.
And although lock-down drills have the goal of keeping our kids safe, the thought of our kids in a real lock-down can be terrifying.
It is estimated that there had been upwards of 150% increase in threats to schools, according to National School Safety and Security Services. While the majority of these threats are made anonymously via social media and turn out to be hoaxes, every threat must be taken seriously. With every real lock-down and evacuation, panic spreads through the community. How are we, as parents, to find peace of mind in the midst of this increase in violent threats?
A few tips to stay proactive:
• Offenders almost never act spontaneously
Those responsible for incidents of school violence often find themselves dealing with a serious of deteriorating events, leading them to plan and eventually act on a violent act. Community members can prevent violence by noticing and communicating information regarding suspicious behavior. If you know someone or see something that makes you feel skeptical, communicate this behavior to local school administrators and the police department. Do not assume they know already.
• Talk to others
Finding support within your community – including other parents, friends, community members and mental health professionals such as counselors and social workers – can be reassuring. Some communities organize support groups, particularly in the aftermath of traumatic events such as bomb or active shooter threats.
• Turn off the news
While staying informed is important, we run the risk of overexposure to hearing about violence and the distressing emotions intertwined with focusing on tragic events.
• Take care of yourself
Find meaning and comfort in people and events that you enjoy. Re-engaging in healthy behaviors can help you shore up the mental, emotional and physical resources needed to cope with stress.
The powerlessness we feel when we hear about these dramatic, violent acts can cause a lot of anxiety and fear.
Dealing with shock and trauma takes time, and the process is hardly linear. If you or your family members continue to struggle in the aftermath of a critical situation, reaching out to mental health professionals can be a catalyst to healing. In the case of a violent incident or threat to your child’s school, you may find resources and professionals through the school’s counseling department.
There are no easy answers, and we may never know that feelings of security and confidence we once felt in the past. Lock-down drills, like fire drills, are now key tools used to keep kids and teachers safe.
As parents, our goals should be finding resilience and adaptability in the face of the adversity, and trusting administrators of our schools to keep our kids safe as humanly possible.