If you have a loved one who is school-age, back-to-school safety is probably what keeps you up at night. As a mental health provider, clinicians at Youth Villages have had these tough conversations for decades, and they never get any easier. Talking to your children about how to feel safe is so important. You know your child better than anyone, so you know how heavy of a topic they can handle or need to handle, based on their age.
Talk to them and listen. As with most issues, allowing your child the freedom to talk and air concerns without judgment. Allow your child to talk and listen to understand their worries.
Reassure them. Let them know you understand and/or share their concerns. If you have older kids or teens, maybe encourage them to participate in a rally or letter-writing campaign to local state or federal officials to help curb mass violence. Being active can help you and your family be a part of the solution.
Remind them to listen to adults or leaders. This is an essential piece of advice for younger kids. During school safety or fire drills, for example, the students need to take the drills seriously and listen to instructions. If children are older, share what safety protocols are in place at their schools to help them feel calmer.
Limit article or story intake. Again, you know your children better than anyone. Should tragedy strike your area, limit TV and online access for your family. And as a household, limit what you discuss and how you discuss it in front of younger kids.
Make space for them to speak up. Reassure your child, especially older youth, to notify an adult if they hear or see something from a classmate that is causing them concern. This can be social media posts, direct threats of harming themselves or others, or bragging about having access to guns.
If you think your kids need help, consult with your child’s pediatrician for a mental health referral. If you believe your child is experiencing a crisis, seek help immediately.
Youth Villages offers a 24/7 statewide crisis hotline staffed by master’s level clinicians for anyone up to the age of 18 who is experiencing a mental health crisis. Youth, parents, guardians, teachers, counselors, and coaches can call the hotline to get help for a minor. Clinicians assess the situation efficiently and effectively to make sure everyone is safe and provide the next steps in the care plan. If necessary, the crisis service team will do a face-to-face assessment within two hours. Our support system state-wide is connected so you and your loved one can benefit from that alignment. Parents or guardians need to be a part of the treatment plan for it to work.
TENNESSEE STATEWIDE CRISIS HOTLINE
1-855-CRISIS-1 or 1-855 (274-7471)
Text “TN” to 741741
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE
Youth Villages is one of the largest providers of services to children in Tennessee and a national leader in children’s mental and behavioral health. The organization has been recognized by the Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report and was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations. Learn more at www.youthvillages.org.