National Children's Charity Offers Tips, Tools To Deal With Crisis
Following the fatal shooting of dozens of students at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the wounding of several other people, the national children's crisis charity KidsPeace and local children cope with the aftereffects of the situation, as well as advice and perspective to the media.
The 125-year-old nonprofit is also alerting schools and the public about the existence of a free resource that helps kids resolve problems before they become dangerous, and which has prevented school shootings in the past.
FOR PARENTS: For area children who have fears that their school or college is not safe or may become the target of a school shooting, KidsPeace offers 10 ways for parents and teachers to reassure and help their kids through such a crisis.
FOR SCHOOLS: To help school systems see the early warning signs of danger and deal with the psychological fallout of the scare, KidsPeace has online articles from its national "Healing" magazine.
FOR KIDS: Perhaps most importantly, KidsPeace and top children's experts Dr. Alvin Poussaint from Harvard and Dr. Lewis Lipsitt of Brown University have created a unique free website that allows older kids and teens to work through the emotional stresses of growing up today - before those stresses become dangerous or overwhelming. TeenCentral.net, which gets 20 million hits a year, gives clinically screened help and hope to kids in all 50 states, at U.S. military bases worldwide, and in dozens of countries around the globe. The site helps kids identify the problems they face, from depression to school pressures, peer problems, family disputes, drugs, alcohol, smoking, even suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming others.
TeenCentral.net has prevented a number of mass tragedies, as well as an uncountable number of personal ones. This happened in 2002 when a California teenager wrote in to TeenCentral.net saying he was going to "go Columbine" and kill students at his school. Although the site rigorously protects kids' identity, a vigilant online counselor at KidsPeace alerted the authorities about the anonymous threat. In cases of potential disaster, the authorities can obtain a court order to track an individual server and the massacre was prevented. Although this kind of occurrence is unusual, this was one of several instances in several states where distraught teens were prevented by TeenCentral.net from carrying out plans to kill groups of their peers.
"The point is," says C.T. O'Donnell II, president and CEO of KidsPeace, the National Center for Kids Overcoming Crisis, "there are resources that can save lives and limit the fear and damage to other children who worry they may be next."
"Local kids may still be affected by the fear this has caused," says Monica Decker, state manager for KidsPeace in Richmond. "It's important to talk to kids who are still worried."
10 Tips for Talking to Children About Shootings
C.T. O'Donnell II, Monica Decker and the clinical experts at KidsPeace have compiled a list of tips to help parents talk to their children about what happened and look out for future signs of distress: