Today’s threat on TikTok for potential school violence has spurred widespread concern and anxiety. NJ Gov. Phil Murphy has stated, “While there are no known specific threats against New Jersey schools, the safety of our children is our highest priority and we will work closely with law enforcement to monitor the situation and remain prepared.” However, many of us are still facing feelings of unease and stress whether you are a parent, a student, an educator, a school staff member, a relative of anyone in a school setting, or simply concerned for your community.
Threats or acts of violence that occur in schools can cause a great deal of confusion and fear in our children who start to worry about their own safety and the safety of their friends and family.
Knowing how to have a conversation with your child or teen about school safety is critical and can play an important role in easing fears and anxieties about their personal safety. How do you address these fears and keep them feeling safe in school and at home? Here are some helpful guidelines:
- Talk honestly with your child or teen about your own feelings modeling that they are not dealing with their fears alone.
- Validate your child’s feelings. “Validating” means giving your child or teen that all-important, and seemingly elusive, message that “your feelings make sense.”
- Empower your child to take action regarding school safety. Encourage them to report incidents such as bullying, threats or talk of suicide. Encourage older children to actively participate in student-run anti-violence programs.
- Support your child’s efforts to work out scary thoughts and feelings through play, drawing, or other activities
Lastly, watch for warning signs that your child may suffer from anxiety. Some common reactions to anxiety are:
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Frequent nightmares or not being able to sleep
- Changes in eating habits which could include loss of appetite or overeating
- Lack of focus or ability to pay attention
- Separation anxiety or unusual clinginess.
If symptoms should persist for more than six weeks or disrupts your child or teen’s daily routine, it is recommended that you seek professional help. JFCS can provide you the necessary support; please call 609-987-8100 Ext 102.
Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC Director of Clinical Services