Dear WHPS families,
There were some updates in the March Newsletter that you received this morning about our School Safety Plan, improvements to our crisis response initiatives and additional safety training our staff are taking part in this month. It is important to us that you know about the ways we are ensuring safety of our community. But it’s also evident that this most recent school shooting in Florida hit a nerve, particularly in light of the repetitive nature of violent incidents in recent years.
As children returned to Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida this week, you probably heard many of the students and their parents in the news talking about anxiety, anger, fear, and their activism. We, ourselves, are feeling these emotions, and depending on the age of your child(ren) a lot of this may be palpable to them as well. Teachers are trained in how to foster cognitive, physical and social emotional growth in children. But most of us are not trained to deal with the ambient trauma of a school shooting that puts a city, state, and a country on edge.
Many of us are struggling with how to talk to our children about this. How young is too young? How much or how little information should we share? And even if we’re not talking about it with our children, how do we address fears they might have?
TALKING TO CHILDREN ABOUT SCHOOL SAFETY
Here are some recommendations when talking with children about this topic (adapted from Child Mind Institute and the National Association of Elementary School Principals):
First and foremost, a rule of thumb for parents and teachers when discussing any mature topic, whether it has to do with school safety or puberty or peer pressure, is to follow the child’s lead.
Don’t avoid talking to your child about what happened. If you avoid the topic, your child may find the event even more threatening or think it is simply too horrible to speak about.
Invite your child to tell you how s/he feels, but avoid leading questions, such as “Are you worried about being safe at school?”
Answer the questions they’re asking honestly but reassuringly, but don’t delve deeper into the topic than they take it. Give children the facts they need to know now, but avoid discussing your fears or anxiety about the future.
Correct any inaccurate information: If your child has misconceptions or inaccurate information, correct them in a simple age-appropriate way.
Reinforcing safety is important with very young children. Emphasize that the incident happened very far away from us and let your child know that we have wonderful people who are doing everything they can to make school a safe place for learning and having fun with friends and classmates.
Stay calm and use “emotional self-control” when talking about this topic. The emotions you express will influence your child’s feelings.
Focus on ways your child/family can take positive social action.
Once we complete the latest school safety training with our staff this month, we will have our next lockdown drill with the children in early April. Prior to that drill, teachers will review the safety procedures with their students.
Our administration team understands that this is an emotional and tricky topic to broach with children. If you have questions, concerns or other feedback, please don’t hesitate to speak with me or anyone on our administration team. It is incredibly important to us that ALL children and families feel supported as we process this most recent tragedy.
Asst. Head of School