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How parents can help students, children through mental strain of school shooting at Heritage High

Heritage High School vigil (September 21).jpg
Posted at 2:47 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 23:13:08-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Days after a 15-year-old allegedly shot two people at Heritage High School in Newport News, it's fair to say tensions remain high.

"When a traumatic experience happens, it's not just affecting the direct victim shot - it reverberates into school and community," said Dr. Hadar Lubin.

Lubin, a psychiatrist, is co-director the Post Traumatic Stress Center in Connecticut and has worked with children and families after the tragedy in Sandy Hook.

"What happens post trauma is it changes perspective because the person thought the world around them was safe," said Lubin.

She and her team also work with the Miss Kendra Program to make trauma informed social emotional learning part of curriculum in classrooms. The programs are in 10 states, including Hertford County, North Carolina.

"It not only creates a safer environment and open conversation - it diffuses anxiety and could prevent what happened in Newport News."

Open conversation and addressing conflict and worry daily is a part of the program - tools that Lubin says parents and families should also be using to help students affected by Monday's tragedy.

"Be available as a caring adult and list to their worries," she said. "You can never really tell a specific worry a person will have with the same event. "

Lubin says there are signs and symptoms students could be exhibiting in the aftermath of this type of trauma.

"Children can be more withdrawn; they can regress, and their sleep and appetite could be different." she said. "They can be more tearful or even afraid to go out of the house or school."

Clinically, trauma could last four to six weeks, says Lubin. The goal is not to let the dialogue fizzle out and to stay vigilant about checking on your child.

Related: Mental health services provided after Heritage High School shooting

"Continue to ask kids, 'How are you doing? What's bothering you?' and doing that will restore a sense of community," she said.