Tips for Supporting Children and Youth after a Concerning Event at School

Some events at school can alter a person’s sense of security. We know that children may be upset or have questions about what has taken place. Our professional mental health staff has created some tips to help you and your child feel safe. We encourage you to review these tips and use them as you see fit, with your child, at home, and your student, at school.

Be reassuring. 

School is a safe place. Children take their emotional cues from the significant adults in their lives. Your reactions are the most important. Recognize that some children may still be concerned. Explain to them the safety measures in place and reassure them that you and other adults will take care of them.

Be a good ​listener and observer. 

Let children guide you to learn how concerned they are, do not dwell on it. However, be available to answer their questions to the best of your ability. Young children may not be able to express themselves verbally. Pay attention to changes in their behavior or social interactions.

Emphasize people’s resiliency. 

Help children understand the ability of people to come through a concerning event and go on with their lives. Focus on children’s own competencies in terms of how they coped in daily life during difficult times.

Highlight people’s compassion and humanity. Focus on the help and hopeful thoughts being offered to those affected by other people.

Mainta​in as much continuity and normalcy as possible. 

Allowing children to deal with their reactions is important but so is providing a sense of normalcy. Routine school/family activities, classes, after-school activities, and friends can help children feel more secure and better able to function.

Spend fam​ily time. 

Being with family is always important, even if your children are not significantly impacted by this particular concerning event. This may be a good opportunity to participate in and to appreciate family life. Doing things together reinforces children’s sense of stability and connectedness.

Ask for help if you or yo​ur children need it. 

Concerning events can feel overwhelming for families directly affected. Staying connected to your community can be extremely helpful. It may also be important to seek additional support from a mental health professional to cope with overwhelming feelings.

Communicate with​ your school. 

Children directly impacted may be under a great deal of stress that can be very disruptive to learning. Together, parents and teachers can determine what extra support or leniency students need and work with parents to develop a plan to help students. Your school social worker and psychologist can also provide extra support if required.

Be aware of your o​wn needs. 

Don’t ignore your own feelings of anxiety or anger. Talking to friends, family members, religious leaders, and mental health counselors can help. It is important to let your children know that your feelings. You will be better able to support your children if you can express your own emotions in a productive manner. Get appropriate sleep, nutrition, and exercise.​