Talking to Kids About Trauma

posted by WMT News / KCRG-TV9 -

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9)-- There schools in eastern Iowa were put on lock down today. Both students and their parents are concerned about school safety.

Wilson Middle School in Cedar Rapids was on lockdown this morning. The Cedar Rapids School District sent out a letter saying the lockdown turned out to be nothing more than an unsubstantiated rumor.

In Dubuque, a man with a gun caused both Fulton Elementary and Holy Ghost Elementary to lockdown this afternoon. Police later arrested him and no one was injured in any of these lockdowns.

Families say their fears are heightened because of recent mass school shootings. Many students sent text messages their parents about the lockdown before the district sent out an official notice. And a lot of students wanted their parents to pick them up as soon as possible, saying they don't feel safe in school.

Students at Wilson Middle School had to huddle in corners while teachers blocked classroom doors Tuesday morning. Some parents heard about the lockdown as it was happening.

"My phone had gone off and it was my son Austin, he's 13, and he said the school is on lockdown,” Rachel Peters said.

Peters has two sons enrolled at Wilson. She decided to leave work in Iowa City to comfort her boys.

"At one point they texted me saying 'This is not a drill and we're freaked out.' They wanted me to come pick them up."

"I think it's important for parents to validate their kiddo's feelings; so being scared is okay,” Lindsey Swales, clinical therapist at Tanager Place, said. Swales says parents should also remind their kids about safety procedures in place at the school. Swales does believe the recent national mass shootings have kids concerned about their own safety.

"Every kid is going to react differently. And that way that trauma happens is it's perceived on the individual level."

Her best advice: if kids have questions answer them. But still try to be age appropriate.

So teenagers might be okay knowing more details than younger children.

"So if it's a younger child you're not going to give a lot of details you'll want to focus on the safety aspect of that and validate their feelings,” Swales said.

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