Parents in the Nechako Lakes school district received a list of guidelines for dealing with trauma on Nov. 3, in light of an incident in Abbotsford Secondary School that resulted in the death of one student and serious injuries to another earlier last week.
“I cannot think of a circumstance more devastating to parents than a death of a child at any time,” states Charlene Seguin, Superintendent of Nechako Lakes school district. “The senselessness of a situation like this makes it all the more difficult to comprehend.
“I want to assure each one of you that the safety of your child in our schools is a priority for the Board of Education, for me as Superintendent, for senior staff, and for administration and staff in each facility.
“Safety precautions and procedures are regularly discussed and practiced at all levels of the District.
“As one would expect, both traditional media outlets and social media have been very active in spreading the word about this event in ways that are both positive and negative.
“In fact, we know that those individuals who are agitated and/or traumatized by these events are re-traumatized over and over again by repeated coverage in the media and through social media.
“In the event that your child has been traumatized by this tragedy, I would like to share with you tips for parents and guardians that have been sent to us by the Ministry of Education’s Safe Schools Department.
“Please be assured that we have counsellors and staff in our district to assist our students through difficult circumstances such as these. Do not hesitate to contact your school should you notice heightened levels of stress in your child.”
Be yourself – Demonstrate your natural concern calmly and in your own words.
Be available – Spend time with your child. Attempt to distract your child by reading, walking, going to a movie, etc.
Listen – Let your child express his/her thoughts, concerns, feelings, and perceptions in a nonjudgmental, emotionally safe environment.
Explain – Talk about what you know in short, truthful statements. Don’t be afraid to admit that you do not have all the answers. Do not speculate.
Develop resiliency – Your child will look to you for reassurance. Do not convey your own feelings of hopelessness, but rather let your child know that they will get through this difficult period.
Provide comfort – Physical and verbal comforts are great healers.
Attend to physical manifestations of trauma – Children will often complain of headaches, stomach aches, backaches, etc. Monitor physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, anxiety, sleep disturbance, etc. and determine whether medical intervention is required.
Maintain regular routines – As much as possible, attempt to provide normalcy to your child. Humans are creatures of habit and derive comfort from regular routines.
Monitor media exposure – Do not overexpose your child to media reports (especially preschool and elementary age children).
Seek additional support – When appropriate, your child should be directed to community support agencies.