Positive tools for thriving families.

Source of graph: Wikipedia, 2018

Preventing Violence and Helping Children Cope with Trauma

It is with great sorrow that we share our condolences with the families and community of Santa Fe High School. No one can doubt that school shootings are now an epidemic in the U.S., with an average of one school shooting every week this year. In looking at the list of 2018 school shootings, one realizes that these shootings are across a range of States, and each perpetrator seems to have a unique history. It is difficult to identify the specific factors that are common across the shooters, other than they are clearly very angry individuals who have resorted to lethal violence as a resort to cope with their particular feelings and situation.

The national crisis of school shootings has left children, administrators, teachers, parents, and families feeling fearful, helpless, and even terrorized, given the unpredictability of school gun violence. Parents and schools are desperately seeking ways to keep their children and students safe, while providing a healthy and positive environment.

Although one can approach this epidemic in multiple ways, it is important for families, professionals, law-makers, school administrators, and teachers to recognize that prevention is perhaps more effective than intervention in the long-run. It is imperative that we respond to gun violence via a holistic platform and address it as a developmental, mental health, legal, and socio-cultural phenomenon, beginning with interventions in schools and homes at a very early age. There are several possibilities for positive interventions, and here are a few suggestions:

  • Early and free parenting programs can be offered at schools, religious centers, and local community organizations. The programs would be developmentally geared to address norms, expectations, parent guidance, and wellness markers for specific age groups, such as infancy, pre-school, elementary, middle school, and high school children.
  • Psycho-educational classes can be offered for parents, teachers, administrators, and nurses that focus on a deeper understanding of whole-child development, to include, medical, cognitive, language, motor, socio-emotional, and mental health issues. Providing specific information and training on key mental health red-flags for children and teenagers, such as depression, anxiety, isolation, anger, bullying, impulsivity, etc., will allow early detection and early intervention, which could lead to critical early support and healing.
  • Schools need to provide well organized structured systems and venues for teachers to identify, discuss, and refer students who may be at risk for socio-emotional, cognitive, and mental health struggles. Providing sufficient school psychologists, counselors, and small class-room sizes for each school will increase the likelihood of success of these programs.
  • Schools and families need to begin structured, informed, and frequent discussions about violence at an early age, so that children learn and recognize how harmful, dangerous, and wrong violence can be.
  • Role modeling and teaching positive conflict resolution, negotiation, expression of feelings, empathy, assertiveness, seeking help, and problem solving in a pro-active, deliberate, and daily routine in the classroom and at home can be very powerful in teaching children critical non-violent coping skills.
  • Schools can invite parents to allow their children to participate in standardized mental health screening tools. Parents can also ask their pediatricians to implement screening interviews and questionnaires with the family to identify at-risk children.

It is imperative that we begin to invest huge amounts of time and money into our children’s mental health and well being in the hopes of addressing the national crisis of school shootings.

Additionally, we need to continue to provide support for the children who have lost their loved ones, have witnessed the trauma, and those who now live in anxiety and confusion about when and where the next shoot-out is going to be. Children may not feel safe going to school and parents may have tremendous anxiety about if and when their child will return home safely.

My book, Where Did My Friend Go: Helping Children Cope With A Traumatic Death specifically addresses helping young children understand, grieve, and cope with a sudden death. It can be used by schools, parents, caregivers, and professionals as the first step in the healing process.

Parents and schools need to continue to have validating, supportive, and reassuring conversations with their teenagers and children about the loss, grief, and trauma of school shootings. Parents should continue to remind their children that grown-ups are working hard to stop gun violence and keep children safe. Becoming an active participant in your community and school to raise awareness of and develop laws, school safety plans, mental health education and interventions, parent guidance and child development education, and violence prevention programs could be very empowering to you and your child.

It takes a village to create positive change, and we must all join hands to prevent school violence, provide free education and support for parenting, child development, and mental health issues, and continue to help our children cope with the chronic trauma of school shootings.

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  • Exceptional, impressive, thoroughly 'kid friendly' from beginning to end, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" should be a part of every community library Parenting Studies collections. For families with young children who are having to deal with divorce, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" will prove to be an invaluable and instructive aid.

    Editor in Chief - Midwest Book Review

  • Those of us parenting, working with, or caring for children experiencing divorce will welcome Family Changes as a unique, positive, and creative resource for helping children understand and cope with this complicated transition. The comprehensive note to adults effectively explains how children work through painful questions and feelings. The touching story—with the endearing Zoey and her attempt to understand a very grown up topic—ends with extremely helpful follow up questions that will be highly valued by parents, child advocates, therapists, and others who wish to better serve children during this difficult time. I highly recommend this book to parents and professionals.

    Sacha Coupet, Ph.D., J.D. Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Family Law, Loyola University, Chicago, IL

  • Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children is an outstanding book that is gentle, positive, and validating for both children and adults. With an excellent and informative parent guide about the value of talking to children about their feelings, a highly sensitive and engaging story with exquisite illustrations, and an effective list of questions that children typically ask, this book is essential reading for divorcing families, and for therapists and advocates working with children of divorce.

    Sandra A. Graham-Bermann, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Michigan

  • Family Changes is an inspiring and exceptional book on divorce. It explains divorce in a developmentally appropriate and comforting language that validates children's complex feelings about divorce. Dr. Maker's expertise and years of experience working with children who are coping with the grief and confusion that often accompany divorce shine through in every page. I highly recommend this book to divorcing parents, schools, libraries, and professionals working with children of divorce.

    Martha Crowe, M.A. Child Development, Institute for Public Health, San Diego State University, CA

  • Dr. Maker has brought us this excellent child-centric educational book about how to navigate the changes of a family undergoing divorce. Dr. Maker takes us through this experience from the child's point of view and shares the gift of positive transformation that can occur during this life-changing time. The illustrations are sublime and the topic is handled so gently and ingeniously. Of course, it is written by a child psychologist with the gift of creativity. It's a book that every child therapist, library, school, and families going through a divorce should have on their shelves.

    Krista Royabal, M.D., Psychiatrist, Executive Medical Director, True Life Center for Wellbeing, CA

  • Based on the typical emotional turbulence a child feels from separation or divorce, Family Changes receives high recommendation as the first title that adults should turn to in the effort to explain, explore, and support a child's feelings in the matter, concluding with a list of 'process questions' which adults can use to further enhance the story line's overall approach.

    CA Bookwatch/Donovan’s Literary Services/Recommended Reading

  • The story touches on several key issues that children worry about - will their parents still love them, will they have two homes now, did they somehow cause the divorce, etc. The book also opens with a straightforward Note to Adults and ends with a list of questions that adults can discuss with children. Often books that do a good job of explaining divorce and separation are so focused on the child's point-of-view, that they don't offer any advice for the parents, caregivers, and teachers that are trying to help the child makes sense of it all. Family Changes avoids that problem and gives good guidelines for adults. I would recommend this book to parents and other family members, educators, and counselors.

    NetGalley Reviews/The Fairview Review - Librarian

  • This story is filled with little moments that reflect the nature of children perfectly. If you need to explain what it means to be divorced or separated to your child then this is one of the best ways to do that. The book is filled with relatable emotions and questions that a lot of children will have if their family is going through a separation. Dr. Maker’s years of experience are evident in the story as she masterfully addresses many common concerns for children experiencing a divorce in their family.

    The Littlest Bookshelf