When school violence occurs, it is important for parents to communicate openly, in an age-appropriate way, with their children to restore feelings of comfort, safety, and security. While it is difficult to shield your children from the chatter and speculation that occurs within your community – the conversations that they may overhear at school, with […]
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- Dr. Gail Gross, Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert
When school violence occurs, it is important for parents to communicate openly, in an age-appropriate way, with their children to restore feelings of comfort, safety, and security.
While it is difficult to shield your children from the chatter and speculation that occurs within your community – the conversations that they may overhear at school, with friends, at sports – you can do your part as a parent to make sure your own children receive the most important information from the people they trust the most: you. During uncertain times such as immediately after an incidence of violence, it is vital that you maintain trust with your child. This begins with being honest with them and giving age-appropriate, clear, and real information.
Here are some tips on how to talk with your children about school violence:
- Reassure your children to restore feelings of safety and security. Explain that this situation is rare and that schools are taking precautions to see that this never happens again.
- Help your children learn how to express their feelings. Some children, especially younger children, may not know how to do so yet. Therefore, it can be helpful for children to hear parents describe their own feelings in a very literal way so that they can understand how to express their own emotions. Sentences such as “I was so frightened that I felt like my stomach dropped, the way you feel in an elevator,” help describe feelings literally.
- Monitor your children’s media exposure. This includes not only limiting their exposure to news coverage, but also to television shows, movies, and video games that may contain violence. Younger children in particular may not be able to process what they see on the screen as separate from real life. And whenever possible, view media with your children so you can explain what they are seeing and hearing.
- Engage in my empathic process. Through this listening and exchange of feelings, children and parents reconnect. Never discount your children’s feelings, and be very generous with your hugs.
- Do not burden your children with your own fears. Now is the time to act in the adult role, and that means being reliable and empathetic, and instilling a sense of calm and protection with your children.
Finally, after engaging in open and honest conversations with your child, it is critical that you pay attention to your child and look for signs of change so that you know how to intervene and remediate. Watch for signs of stress such as loss of appetite, unusual aggression or withdrawal, irritability, and lack of sleep.
Securing your child’s trust during times of uncertainty is important, and trust is based on experience. If you reach out to your children and maintain open lines of communication with them, they will learn to trust you, trust themselves, and they will feel more secure with their outer world.
Dr. Gail Gross, Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert
Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems.
Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC’s The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU’s Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women’s Magazine named her One of Houston’s Most Influential Women of 2016.
Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her.
Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning.
Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention’s 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award.
Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com.
Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To.
Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.