…When kids see gun violence on TV, talking might not always be enough to help express what they are feeling. As adults, we feel fear, anxiety and sometimes hopelessness when we see shooting happen – it is no wonder kids can be so anxious. Freddy Barton, Director of Operations for Safe and Sound Hillsborough has a recommendation for helping kids express themselves after traumatic events if talking isn’t doing the trick.

“We have something called Rainbow Dance that we show kids how to do express themselves after a traumatic event,” says Barton. “Safe and Sound Hillsborough also works on teaching parents how to respond to traumatic events as well.”

Prevention is the Best Strategy

Across the board, teacher and experts agree the most important way that we as a community can prevent shootings is to focus on each student’s mental health and well-being.

“We need to look at violence as a public health issue,” says Barton. “When we thing about it in that light, it makes it all our responsibilities to help kids and stop violence.”

“Parents need to be super aware of who their child is friends with” says Wilson. “And they need to pay attention if they seem to have no friends. If your teenager is sulky and doesn’t want you around, be around anyway.”

Before pigeon-holding a kid or teen as “dangerous” or a “potential shooter,” it is important for parents and teachers and the community as a whole to do everything they can get to know each child.

“We invest millions of dollars a year into security technology, but we need to invest into the human element of prevention,” says Trump. “If a teacher and parents and community members get to know a kid, they are less likely to feel that shooting is the answer.”

There are some red flags to look for in your kids and the kids that you interact with on a daily basis that indicate that they might be in need of help. “If kids are moody or have serious or have serious problems with relationships are just really hostile, that is a red flag,” says Rice. “If kids are isolating themselves or talking a lot about violence those are some things to look for. One thing you can do is to set limits on alone time, and spend time together as a family so that you can see what is really going on with them.”

Getting help from a psychologist early can help keep kids away from turning to guns. Safe and Sound Hillsborough also offers a community of support for kids who are thinking of turning to violence. Not only can kids learn about consequences of violence by talking about it, but they can also participate in mock trials. They also learn that if they see something, like a friend who has a gun or talks about guns, to say something. Often, kids who are involved in shootings haven’t thought through the consequences of their actions fully, so the mock trials provide a safe space to learn more, says Barton.

“All of us have a vested interest in keeping our kids safe,” says Barton. “It is all of our responsibility to get to know the kids we interact with and to protect them”

Article courtesy of Tampa Bay Parenting

Read full article in January 2016 Magazine (p28)