Update June 10, 2014
(6-10-14 update: This graphic is a map of the 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook, compiled by Mark Gongloff of Everytown.org, Original Sandy Hook article at the end)
Just since the Washington Post weapons and mass shootings graphics on the misogynistic mayhem at my UCSB alma mater we’ve already chalked up the Seattle Pacific University incident AND today’s deaths at Reynolds High School in Portland…
At the risk of triggering more disturbingly distorted mental health lenses like that of the Seattle 26 year old boasting a ‘fascination’ with school shootings, I’ll keep the copycat focus to a minimum and reiterate the tips on handling violent news and ‘what to say to kids’ link list at the end.
That said, I fully admit right now that any and all “school crisis resources” feel like disingenuous comforting and head patting in a society run amok with illogical yahoos.
Though contextually valid, the tips from the NEA School Crisis Guide/Health Information Network, NIMH, National Assn of School Psychologists often begins with the premise, “Reassure children that they are safe.”
Really? How? How are we going to reassure them of that, given our wacky cultural credos and misplaced priorities throwing children’s rights under the bus? How can we read tweets from kids trapped inside their own school without connecting the dots to THEIR mental health repercussions and PTSD sidewinders?
How can we look at school shooting data since Sandy Hook or national map visualizations like this from gun control advocacy group Everytown.org and “reassure” kids that while they’re off learning their ABCs they won’t be met with some unspeakable act of copycat criminal chaos?
How can we “reassure children that they are safe” from their own altered states and jaded worldviews being exposed to the impotence of a nation that clearly doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to “call the shots” with both mental health AND gun policies that are not serving our citizenry well?
How can we continue this charade that adults have it all under control? We don’t. And sadly, kids know this. Firsthand.
Resources/Kids Talking Tips Amidst Violent Headline News:
My Daughter Can’t Get To Sleep/Scary News Stories (blog post/Mediatrician/Dr. Michael Rich)
Should We Shield Kids After Boston Blasts? (blog post/Nancy G.; fndr-NewMoonGirls)
Mom & Dad, Are We Safe? (blog post/Dr. Robyn “they don’t just need to look for the helpers, they can become them”)
Harvard EdCast: Discussing Tragedy With Children (faculty/expert podcast 15-20min)
Children Now: Talking With Kids About the News Excellent specific talking tips on terrorism and random mass incidents (complete with role play) and a solid roundup of web link resources on terrorism/tragedies of various kinds
Talking with Kids about Headline News (PBS Parents)
Explaining the News to our Kids (Common Sense Media)
NIMH Helping Children & Adolescents Cope With Violence and Disasters (Nat’l Inst of Mental Health)
Expert Tips on Talking to Kids About the Dark Knight Incident (health blog/Dallas News)
Create Your Own Media Headline (How media is made/interactive)
Teach Kids News (Grades 2-6)
MIT/Reconstructing: A classroom exercise; reflections on humanity and media after tragedy (deconstructing media w/analysis of sound/news footage, etc.)
Talking With Kids About Tough Subjects (Before everyone else does)
American Red Cross/Facing Fear: Free Downloadable Curriculum for K-12
PBS Teachers: Media Literacy Sites & Programs Great list of links, shows, topics, guides and more
Media Literacy Clearinghouse Frank Baker has links out the wazoo on multiple areas of specialization as well as allied orgs (see our blogroll sidebar)
How to Talk to Your Child About the News Simple overview/KidsHealth primer
Related Reading on Shaping Youth by Amy Jussel
Bin Laden’s Death, Media, and Kids: Teach Your Children Well (comprehensive list of ‘terrorism specific’ convos to quell fears w/kids)
Sandy Hook Shooting Silence: Floundering in Social Media Darkness
Original Post: Dec. 18, 2012 On Friday I was passing through Dallas, home to a select group of gun-toting citizenry rabid about rights to conceal weapons, when I heard the horrific news about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and fell into a heap in front of a TV monitor at DFW airport.
I watched the faces of those around me with earnest, wondering which card-carrying member of the NRA would trade the ‘freedom’ of owning a rapid-fire assault weapon for the life of a child.
All faces were equally ashen and grim, transfixed on the media spewing forth and it gave me a twisted form of comfort knowing that at least all of us regardless of our belief systems were equally repulsed in our public jaw-clenched restraint.
Truth is, I’ve gone dark for several days on social media because I’m struggling. I’ve written the “resources to reassure children” articles WAY too many times, and just need to hush up and point people elsewhere for those seeking talking points and conversation, even though I want to ‘help’ with healing and recap the links that could contextualize the rarity of tragedy…
But it’s happening all too often.
From Virginia Tech coping tips, essays on the role of violence in the media to local security systems in emergency school situations, and how to talk to kids about headline news from Sept 11 to natural disasters, my disheartened reaction to the lack of proactive solutions and sickening slaughter of innocents has left me floundering in silence, and unplugged on multiple levels.
I have nothing more to say critiquing the media’s mindless rush to being first over being accurate, nor about media literacy crosschecks on viral Facebook fodder falsely attributed to Morgan Freeman (who social media has inaccurately buried so many times he’s rivaling nine lives) nor about my own child’s experience returning to high school with classmates upended and in tears during a government class recapping policy, practices and prevention, nor about the lunacy of kids toting MORE guns to school for ‘self-protection,’ nor even about the promising news when lawmakers turn against powerful special interests with ‘enough is enough’ finality. I can give you the links to get the conversations going, but I’m not able to talk about it.
I’m speechless. And sad. And frankly, not able to ‘process’ the information with any degree of professionalism.
My father, who specialized in international counter-terrorism always told me that when we alter our behavior out of fear and risk assessment, we’ll have given up our precious freedoms and terrorists will have ‘won’… Let’s hope “love wins” instead.
As the sensationalism spreads to Mayan calendar conversations and copycat creeps, I’ll conclude by sounding like a macabre cartoon…the ‘end of the world’ media madness is the least of our current problems.
I’m moving on to other topics not out of desensitization, but instead out of my own survival instinct grasping at normalcy, hope, and humanity to triumph. I wish I could ‘help’ but I’m putting my own oxygen mask on first, as these incidents continue to chisel away at my worldview in a way that’s hard to recover.
“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it by the handle of anxiety, or by the handle of faith. ~Author Unknown