School safety and stress: Helping your family through security-related anxiety

School safety and stress: Helping your family through security-related anxiety
WCVB/Viewer video/driver photo via CNN

With the unavoidable images from places like Parkland, Florida, families now have an added stressor when it comes to going back to school: security.

SSM Health child therapist Britt Coolman says it’s something parents and kids are more aware of, and consequently, more anxious about.

“It’s not likely that that’s the only thing that that child is anxious about unless they had a real experience, then it is more likely trauma or post-traumatic stress,” Coolman explained. “But most kids, they tend to have an anxious personality if that’s something that also kind of catches on for them, so there are going to be other things going on for them as well.”

It’s something even the state has considered to be top priority in the classroom. Earlier this year, Governor Scott Walker announced $100 million in grants for school districts who wanted to invest more in safety.

If you have a child or teen struggling with the transition from summer back to school, you can have your questions answered. News 3 and our partners at SSM Health are taking #TimeToTalk about mental health ahead of that first day of school.

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Madison received about a million dollars that the district plans to invest in upgraded door locks. Verona schools are getting about $270,000, which will mostly go toward bullet-proof glass in the buildings there. Janesville will receive more than $400,000 for updated radios and a fob system for faculty and staff.

Coolman says it can be useful to remind your kids – and yourself – that schools are preparing for the worst-case scenario.

“Let them know about the things that are safety precautions that you’re taking at home, safety precautions that they’re taking at school, provide those kinds of reassurances of, here’s some things that we know happen for safety at your school,” Coolman said.

That preparation can cause anticipation, however, that is just as stressful for some children.

“If there are lockdown drills, it’s just another way to talk about, hey I know this is kind of scary, but think about how you’re going to know what to do, right?” Coolman said. “And think about how this helps with making us safe at school.”

On top of that, Coolman says it’s important for parents to get the support they need if they’re feeling stressed about their child’s safety.

“It’s stressful for everybody,” Coolman said. “And I’m going to put that on the back burner and get other support for that. Allow the child to be the one to bring it up if they do have concerns or they’ve been exposed to it.”

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