Weston, Florida. Friday December 6, 2019
Parents got the robocall no one wants to get from their child’s school. Code red at Cypress Bay High School and Falcon Middle School.
At the same time, kids were sitting in class, going over their answers on a quiz from last week. Others were trying to focus on taking notes and wondering when their report is due for a different class. Then out of nowhere, a code red alert prompted them to assume their positions. Our kids waited and waited for hours, hungry, worried, and tired. Hundreds of hundreds of bag packs were searched. Thankfully nothing happened today and everyone was safe.
Schools have to do 3 drills each month, a fire drill, a code yellow drill (threat outside the building) and code red drill (imminent danger assume protective positions). Dr. Bruce Perry, founder of the Child Trauma Academy expresses his concern in an interview “people who don’t know anything about kids are jumping in and adapting protocols for groups like police officers or people preparing for combat” -(https://www.cfcpac.org/content/2019/09/04/when-active-shooter-drills-scare-the-children-they-hope-to-protect/)
Children are often required to do these drills and then get right back to learning and working in their classroom. People say kids are becoming desensitized to school shootings and active shooter drills. They say it’s sad, but it’s not just sad, it’s traumatic and can have long term effects. While it’s true that some children handle the drills better than others, we do not have enough research yet to truly know how this impacts children long term.
What We Do Know:
- Children rely on adults to keep them safe. If children do not feel safe this is stressful to their brain and bodies.
- Exposure to repeated stress does psychological harm and affect physical health.
- The brain does not complete development until age 25.
- Young children have a shortlist of coping skills and often do not know how to talk about their feelings.
- Adolescence is one of the most vulnerable periods to develop anxiety and depression. About 50 percent of cases of mental illness begin by age 14 (American Psychiatric Association).
Today was a stressful day for your child at school. You couldn’t be there to reassure them or protect them. So as a parent, what can you do after they have a day like today?
Love on them!
Connect with them,
Meet their needs; offer comfort food, a relaxing bath.
Turn off the news
“I wish you didn’t have to go through this.”
“It must be so hard for you.”
“This isn’t fair”
If you and your child already developed an emergency plan and they followed it, acknowledge that “Thank you for texting me and keeping me up to date.” If they didn’t, figure out why and whether something about the plan needs to be changed. If you have not yet made a safety plan, consider making one and discuss it together.
Help them process by asking open-ended questions:
“How was that for you?“
“How long did they have you guys waiting?”
“How uncomfortable was being on the floor/inside the closet/or under the desk for that long?”
“How upset or scared were you? “
“Were any of your friends upset?”
Highlight the positive:
“School intervened quickly”
“Law enforcement arrived quickly”
“No one was hurt”
“You are home safe and sound”
After a day like today, kids might have trouble sleeping and might seem more irritable. The little ones especially may become more clingy. Please be more patient. Try to spend quality family time this weekend. Take it easy.
Your kids might ask you some tough questions about why their world is the way it is. Be honest. The adults in charge of making policies can not make up their minds. But the schools are trying the best they can. Encourage them to be kind to others and to speak up if they become concerned about a classmate.
Hug them again.
Hugs to you too mom! Parenting these days is hard.