Therapist discusses helping children face fears over new school year

Parents and students are feeling the stress of heading back inside the classroom.

A therapist breaks down ways to talk with children about possible fears returning to school amid safety concerns.

"Where we as adults have that fear around mass shootings, kids have that same fear as well," family therapist Dr. Gerry L. White said.

The images are grappling and the news is heart stopping as shootings are happening on what should be sacred ground for learning.

"The unknown about the new school year. The unknown about the safety in the school. The unknown about how they are going to perform," Dr. White said.

As kids across metro Atlanta head back to school, Dr. White said to pay attention to children as they may have uneasy feelings heading to class.

"Social media and the availability of it has the ability to create triggers for youth. The traumas from what they’ve witnessed," Dr. White said.

Tuesday, Upson-Lee High School was placed on lockdown after a student mistook a massage gun for a real gun, prompting fears of an active shooter.

Dr. White said the stress, which deals with the known issue, and the anxiety, which deals with the unknown, are real in children and shows differently based on age.

"Children don’t always communicate their issues. It’s usually manifested in the behavior. The irritation, difficulty sleeping, headaches or irregular eating," Dr. White said.


Dr. White advises parents to actively listen to little one.

"It’s very important to ask open-ended questions. Avoid the short answers. Ask ‘How are you feeling today?’ or ‘How was school today?’" Dr. White said.

Dr. White advises to go over the safety plans from the school together as a family.

"Validation for young people is one of the most important things. Emphasizing that it’s a new school year and yes, there are fears there but also getting them to face their fears," Dr. White said.