Parents should hide own fears while discussing school violence, counseling professor says

Thursday, October 12, 2006

School violence has captured news headlines recently, prompting President George W. Bush to hold a national conference this past week to discuss safety in schools.

During the last two weeks, five girls died when a gunman entered an Amish school in Pennsylvania and killed them and wounded five others; several female students were sexually assaulted and one was killed by a another gunman who entered a Colorado high school; and a principal was shot and killed by a student at a Wisconsin high school. Earlier this week, a student fired a rifle inside his middle school in Joplin, Mo., but did not hit anyone before being apprehended by police.

With incidents like these dominating the headlines, the director of the Child and Family Resource Clinic at the University of North Texas, says parents should be careful not to respond with fear in front of their children.

"If parents are panicked or worried about sending their child to school, the child will often sense this fear and develop his or her own fears," says Dr. Dee Ray, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Development and Higher Education at UNT and a licensed professional counselor. "If schools overreact by becoming overly cautious and reactive, children will again respond with fear."

Ray offers these tips to parents for talking to their children about school violence:

Read or watch news stories about school violence with your children, then ask them if they have questions. "Try to respond to their questions in calm manner so that children are reassured by your calmness that everything will be okay for them," Ray says.

But don't overexpose children to news reports, she advises. "The past few events have been discussed and shown on television ad nauseum. This can be disturbing for children," she says.

Promise your children that you will always try to protect them. "Children need to be reassured that things will be OK and that you will always do your best to keep them safe," Ray says.

Don't be too logical with young children. "Using logic such as, 'This has never happened before in your school, so it won't happen now,' is not reassuring to children, but your calmness and confidence is," Ray says

To prevent children from engaging in violence in schools, Ray advises parents to teach and model nurturance and empathy.

"Approaching school violence from a purely law enforcement perspective ignores the importance of prevention of the problem," she says. "It has to be approached through care, concern, and relationships between children and their parents and teachers."

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108


Latest News

Rachel Grimes
Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rachel Grimes, assistant director of outreach for the Student Money Management Center at the University of North Texas, has been named the Innovative Educator of the Month for August 2014 by Visa's Practical Money Management Skills for Life website.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The fall 2014 season will once again feature special concerts that are fast becoming perennial favorites, including the College of Music Gala and the Sounds of the Season Holiday Concert, as well as a dazzling array of jazz, operatic, symphonic, chamber and experimental music performances.

Untangled II: Unbound
Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The public can compete for prizes in the latest version of an online gaming competition that's helping University of North Texas researchers improve the efficiency of the next generation of electronic gadgets, such as smartphones and medical devices. The competition for UNTANGLED II: Unbound runs Aug. 21 (Thursday) to Aug. 31 (Sunday), and 20 gift cards will be awarded to the overall best players.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The initial enrollment period for the University of North Texas' new Eagle Express Tuition Plan ended with more than 4,600 eligible students signing up for the innovative, money-saving plan.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Researchers in Teen ST.A.R, or Teen Stress and Alcohol Research will examine the factors that may lead to adolescents starting risky behaviors, such as alcohol and substance abuse.