teenager girl standing in hallway with bookbag on

How to Help Your Teen Cope With the Trauma of School Shootings

Trauma can strike in many ways. For example, you can be traumatized by witnessing a horrific event. This really is particularly relevant when considering the impact of school shootings on teenagers across the land. Needless to say, it can leave a deep scar if such violent strikes at your school. However, the hyper-awareness and blanket coverage of such events are enough to negatively impact your teen’s mental health.

It differs from child to child but the reality remains. School shootings can claim untold and unseen victims from the sheer terror they inspire. How then can you help your teen cope with the potential trauma?

How the Trauma of School Shootings Can Impact Your Teen’s Mental Health 

  • A desire to skip school
  • Worrying about themselves, close friends, and favorite teachers at school
  • Sleep disturbances, including nightmares
  • Substance abuse
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Academic problems
  • Anxiety
  • Unexplained physical aches and pains
  • Digestive problems
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

If a teen is directly involved in such an attack, they may also experience survivor’s guilt. They feel bad that they survived while others didn’t. They may also wonder what else they could’ve done to help. On top of the symptoms above, someone with survivor’s guilt may display:

  • Confusion
  • Anger and irritability
  • Feelings helplessness
  • Loss of motivation
  • A desire to withdraw and choose social isolation

Whether your teen was present for a school shooting or has been following the news of other attacks, these events can throw a monkey wrench into their life. Stability, predictability, and normal expectations can be shattered.

teenager girl standing in hallway with bookbag onHow to Help Your Teen Cope With the Trauma of School Shootings

You can start with the basics, e.g.

  • Keep your home safe and welcoming
  • Make yourself available to talk and listen
  • Be on the alert for signs of mental distress
  • Check-in with your teen often while still giving them the space they need
  • Be fully present with them during all of your time together
  • Lead by example by practicing daily self-care
  • Lead by example by taking breaks from the news and your devices

On that last note, it is vital that neither you nor your child binge on new reports. During your tech breaks, use that time to do something productive together. Taking a walk or playing a sport is ideal. Get your bodies moving and distract your minds.

The Dangers of the 24/7 News Cycle

The news shows or websites you choose all have something in common. They don’t want you to click away to another source (or turn them off for a tech break). Therefore, as a business decision, they will continue to squeeze content out of a school shooting event. Just when you think your teen is beginning to process and resolve their emotions, some new and sensational angle is introduced. You can be of great help with this by never downplaying the hour of what happened while keeping the event in context with reality. Help your teen put the news and safety in general into proper perspective.

You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers

No parent should be expected to magically know just what to say or do when a rare tragedy hits. You call upon your love and your years of experience to do what feels best for your child. In the meantime, if you sense they need more, therapy is an excellent option. Sometimes, what a teen really needs is a safe space to talk openly without feeling judged. Their counseling sessions provide them with this opportunity on a regular basis.

So, if the headlines have your teen — or you — in a state of free-floating anxiety, reach out to us for teen counseling or trauma therapy.

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