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Feb. 26, 2016 // WorkLife Wisdom: Talking With Kids About School Threats

Unfortunately, today’s environment of anxiety about threats of violence to institutions and individuals has impacted countless schoolchildren across the nation. Whether the dangers are real or hoaxed, it affects the whole family when, for example, school is cancelled upon receiving a threat. Children of all ages will naturally have questions, concerns, and fears about potential violence. If such a situation has affected your family, here are some tips on easing your children’s fears.

Encourage kids to talk about their concerns: Children may be hesitant to initiate a conversation about threats of violence, so you may want to prompt them by asking if they feel safe at school. You might begin by asking, “Do you have questions about this? Do you understand what’s going on? Are you worried about anything?”

Validate their feelings: Be open and accepting of anything your children express. While you don’t want to minimize children’s concerns, it’s also good to let them know that serious acts of violence are actually quite rare.

Share your feelings about violence honestly: It’s important for children to recognize that they aren’t alone in dealing with their fears. If you don’t have an answer for a specific question about threats, admit that. Then, transition to reassurance by emphasizing that while there are dangers in the world, there are ways to deal with them and stay safe. Teachers, parents and police are taking every possible step to deal with threats and protect children.

Project calm: While acknowledging your own concerns, try not to express undue panic over a threat situation — children may sense your alarm and in turn experience more anxiety. Strive to set a good example with calm behavior and confidence in authorities’ ability to keep kids safe.

Be available: Remind children that they can come to you with questions and concerns whenever they may feel anxious about safety at school. Keep the communication open.

Return to normalcy: If a threat has impacted your children’s school, strive to get back into the usual routine once the threat is cleared. Resumption of familiar activities can be comforting.

Seek help for a child as needed: If a child seems beset by fears, e.g., showing signs of school avoidance, withdrawal, or unusual emotions or behavior, consider contacting your pediatrician or your FAA WorkLife Solutions Program for a confidential evaluation.

Remember to take care of yourself: An actual or potential trauma can have an impact on the parent as well. Delayed responses to trauma are possible, i.e., you might experience a stress reaction several weeks after an event. If such a reaction is getting in the way of your daily well being, talk with your loved ones, friends, and/or a counselor.

Accessible 24/7, your FAA WorkLife Solutions Program offers many resources and services to help you and your family. Options available through the program include concierge services to help with everyday events needing your time and attention, child and elder care options, legal and financial services, in-person counseling, and much more. Call your program at 1-800-234-1327, TTY Users: 1-800-456-4006, or log on to MagellanHealth.com/Member to begin accessing these services today.

Sources: Mental Health America, Associated Press, Reuters.