Supporting Students After a Violent Event

Tragically, many of our nation’s children have been exposed to high profile acts of violence including the horrific event that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Many of us are grappling with how to best support students, their families, as well as others.

The Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative [TLPI] provides some helpful resources.  Included in these is a guidance document from the National Association of School Psychologists [NASP].  It provides many specific tips, tools, and strategies. It also discusses how important it is to have supportive conversations with students so that they may feel safe, secure, supported and a sense of normalcy as they return to school.

The TLPI and NASP as well as other organizations and scholars point to how essential it is to see the strengths and assets that all students, their families, and others possess.  For example, many of Parkland’s students were interviewed directly after and during the days following the tragedy. During these, they demonstrated tremendous maturity recounting what they experienced and the actions that they took as the event was occurring and during its aftermath. Many also expressed their hopes for the future and how much they value the support of their local community.  In addition, some presented ideas and action steps that they believe will help their community and our nation to heal and to take better care of and for each other.  Further, some shared what they believe can be done to improve our nation’s school safety measures including many who rallied to support stronger gun safety measures.

Helping each student to feel a sense of belonging and competence; listening carefully and empathetically to their concerns and fears; and taking time to honor, acknowledge and value their important calls for action can greatly support them to flourish in school and in their lives.  Our listening to what they have to say can also greatly help us all going forward.  Taking these essential steps are what my colleagues and co-writers, Dr. Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz and Judie Haynes, and I refer to as Teaching to Strengths: supporting students living with trauma, violence and chronic stress.



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