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How to Reassure Your Kids It’s Safe to Go to School
By Michele Fritz, Director of Marketing and Community Relations

It’s fall and for many of us it brings back the feeling of “new beginnings”, probably because it s the start of a new school year. As a child I remember being excited to start a new grade/school, meeting my new teachers,
seeing school mates again and wearing my brand new school clothes!

However, with all the media stories about so many school shootings, going back to school might be a “fearful” thing for some kids. So how do we address our children’s fears and anxieties? Experts say not to discourage
kids from talking about the events. In fact, psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow says, “Believe me, kids are thinking already about it. They need an adult to coax them to express their feelings and to tell them they are safe and
that we’re going to do the things we need to protect you.”

Dr. Alec L. Miller, a child psychologist with New York’s Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine says parents should challenge the fear that school shootings are becoming more common. He says
while there have been several attacks in a short period of time, parents and educators should discuss how unlikely it is for such an attack to occur at school.

To guide parents through difficult discussions about school violence, the National Mental Health Association offers the following suggestions:

  • Encourage children to talk about their concerns and to express their feelings
  • Talk honestly about your own feelings regarding school violence
  • Validate the child’s feelings
  • Empower children to take action regarding school safety (encourage them to report bullying, threats or talk 
    of suicide)
  • Discuss the safety procedures that are in place at your child’s school
  • Create safety plans with your child (i.e., help them identify which adults at school they can talk to if they 
    feel threatened at school). Also, ensure your child knows how to reach you or another family member if 
    they feel threatened. Remind them that they can talk to you anytime they feel threatened.
  • Recognize behavior that may indicate your child is concerned about returning to school
  • Lack of interest or poor performance in school
  • Absence of age-appropriate anger control skills
  • Seeing self as always the victim
  • Persistent disregard for or refusal to follow rules
  • Cruelty to pets or other animals
  • Artwork or writing that is bleak or violent or that depicts isolation or anger
  • Talking constantly about weapons or violence
  • Obsession with violent games and/or TV shows
  • Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
  • Carrying a weapon to school
  • Overreacting to criticism
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Bullying
  • Misplaced or unwarranted jealousy
  • Involvement with or interest in gangs
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Keep the dialogue going
  • Seek help when necessary 

Source: National Mental Health Association
Weaver, J. (2013). Honest conversations can help ease your child’s fears about school safety. NBC News.
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We provide high quality, faith-integrative, affordable counseling for individuals, couples and families in 18 locations in Seattle, Bellevue and the Eastside, South King County, Pierce and Kitsap Counties. Each of our therapists has a master's or doctoral degree. They represent a variety of mental health disciplines and are licensed by the State of Washington. All Samaritan therapists identify themselves as Christian.

Samaritan welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and lifestyles. We believe that healing occurs on multiple levels--mind, body, spirit and soul--and are always willing to consider with our clients the spiritual as well as psychological aspects of healing and growth. We seek to make our services as affordable as possible. We accept a number of insurance plans and, when the income of our clients is limited, we offer fee assistance to the extent our resources allow.

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