Frisco | September 2022

PEOPLE Carrie Proctor Texas Counseling Association education development services director

and here are the things schools do to keep people safe.’ And just listening to them as they react to that [helps]. It’s hard. It’s hard having those con- versations, and it’s hard as a parent not to have your intense emotions kind of take over. You really have to have your own reaction first and [take] time to pro- cess and think about what happened. And then you have to put on that calm face of, ‘yeah, this happened, and I’m here for you, and your teach- ers are here.’ It’s also a great oppor- tunity to have conversations about if you see something that doesn’t look right we need to tell someone. It’s everybody’s job to keep the school safe and to speak up if something doesn’t look right so that they feel a little bit empowered, thinking that there is something that they can do, too. I think one of the hardest things is when you feel hopeless. IS THERE ANYTHING PARENTS SHOULD NOT SAY TO THEIR CHILD? Be careful of the level of anxiety that you’re transmitting to your kid. I wouldn’t say that there’s some- thing you shouldn’t say to your kids because parents are the experts on their kids; they’ve been raising them since birth or adoption. I do think the biggest thing is kids pick up on parental stress. [Keep] a routine as much as possi- ble; [spend] a little extra time trying to check in and ask how they’re doing. It’s worse to say nothing than to worry about saying the wrong thing, because you want your kids to feel like they can have an open dialogue and the lines of communi- cation are open even about difficult subjects.


Carrie Proctor is the education development services director for the Texas Counseling Association. She is also past president of the association, serving in 2018-2019, and has 26 years of experience in K-12 schools. Proctor is a certified school counselor and a licensed professional counselor. Proctor spoke with Community Impact Newspaper on how to talk with students about school safety and on-campus incidents. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


WHAT THINGS FALL UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF SAFETY AND SECURITY WITHIN THE SCHOOL STRUCTURE? Safety looks like many different things, and I think a lot of it comes from your individual child’s con- cerns. My son started riding the school bus for the first time last year in eighth grade. So, we had a conversation about keeping track of your belongings, not flashing money around, keeping your cell phone [put away] and just your personal property safety. We also talked about awareness and bullying that could happen. HOW CAN PARENTS TALK TO KIDS ABOUT SOMETHING LIKE AN ACTIVE SHOOTER SITUATION? I think it depends on the age of the kid how you approach it. A kid who [is up to] to 6 is going to need differ- ent information than a kid who’s a teenager, and the way that they react to these situations are completely different, too. But you talk about staying safe. You talk about being aware of what’s going on around

you. I’m talking about—with a little kid—you talk about the importance of listening to your teachers. If a situation is different than usual, paying particular attention and following every instruction that the teacher says [is important]. With a teenager… [you can say] if you see somebody walking by with a gun, you need to get yourself out of that situation, even if it means leaving the school. You need to also make sure that the school knows about that situation, so you have a conversation about that. You wouldn’t tell a 5-year- old to go run out to the field and go off campus. It’s different, [depending on] your child’s personality and how they handle anxiety and stress, and fear of the unknown. HOW CAN PARENTS TALK TO CHILDREN ABOUT SCHOOL SHOOTINGS ON TELEVISION AND SOCIAL MEDIA? [Say something like], ‘So, hey, something sad happened today, and I want you to know because people will be talking about it. And I want you to know that there are the things that we do at home to keep you safe,

Carrie Proctor recommends considering a child’s age and maturity level before having conversations about school safety and traumatic events. Talking to young children (ages 2-11) • Consider using drawing or writing exercises to express big feelings. • Find a related book and read through it together. • Keep up with normal routines following an incident, if possible. • Make more one-on-one time. • Consider limiting exposure to news coverage. Talking to teenagers (ages 12-18) • Consider mental health support, if necessary. • Encourage them to stay aware of their surroundings and report suspicious or worrisome behavior. • Keep an open dialogue on the subject. • Talk about news coverage they may have seen. SOURCES: CARRIE PROCTOR, TEXAS COUNSELING ASSOCIATION, CHILD MIND INSTITUTE/ COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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