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Tips for dealing with anxiety stemming from violence

"Although outrageous and unacceptable, the relative rate of risk from a school shooting is relatively low compared to the risk of an auto accident."

MINNEAPOLIS — Parents and students can have anxiety about going back to school for many reasons. But if the anxiety stems from violence, like a fear of shootings, there are some specific tips which can help. 

1. Assure children and teens they are safe

This is the first tip from the National Association of School Psychologists on how to talk to children about violence.

From their website: "Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately."

2. Explain the *possibility of something happening versus the *probability

This is another tip from NASP: "Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and probability that it will affect you (our school community)."

Here's more from Dr. Lew Zeidner, a psychologist and the System Executive Director of Triage and Transition Services for Mental Health and Addiction Services at M Health Fairview:

"Although outrageous and unacceptable, the relative rate of risk from a school shooting is relatively low compared to the risk of an auto accident or crossing the street," Zeidner said.

3. Give children direction

This tip is from Dr. Zeidner.

He says give children direction by telling them what they can do to stay safe, without scaring them.

"If you see something that you don't think looks right in your school, you should raise your hand, you should talk to your teacher... that's not the same as saying you should get frightened, you should be worried," he said.

4. Parents: Stay calm

Zeidner says a big part of keeping your kids calm is staying calm yourself.

"A piece of how children will respond depends on how you as a parent respond. If you're hugely anxious, the child will recognize that there's something to be hugely anxious about. If you're more calm, that will also be picked up," Zeidner said.

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