ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Could it happen to me? Am I safe?
Anxiety remains for many Tampa Bay parents and teens following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Hayes DuJardin, a sophomore at Lakewood Ranch High School in Bradenton, said the onslaught of copycat threats following the shooting were enough to cause him to worry about his own safety.
"Definitely, there’s like tension and you can feel it throughout all the students talking about it and wondering ‘what are we doing to prevent this from happening here,'" he said.
His concerns were enough to prompt his mother, a Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital employee, to organize an event Monday night to discuss how to deal with lingering anxiety brought on by recent school violence and threats.
"For him to bring it to us let us know he had a little bit of fear," Michelle DuJardin said. "The possibility may be small, but the shootings are happening and so there's that fine line between recognizing that fear and helping work through it but also saying ‘ok, maybe you do need to stay home today’ when the threats were occurring after the shooting.”
Dr. Kristin Hoffman, a trauma psychologist at Johns Hopkins, said children don't have to be directly impacted by violence to feel the effects.
"They’re being exposed to it through media, through their friends even through school where kids four and five years old now are having active shooter drills," she said. "My advice to people after events like this is usually to limit their exposure to media and to figure out what kids are watching, watch it with them — go onto Facebook and social to see what they’re looking at and process it with them.”
How parents explain it to their kids depends on their age, she said, but most questions they might raise ultimately have the same underlying meaning.
"Kids after these type of events might ask ‘am I ok,’ ‘could this happen to me,' ‘could this happen to you at work,’ and I tell parents the underlying message to all those questions are kids asking ‘am I safe,'" she said.
As for Hayes, he said he tries not to get too caught up in the anxiety of it all. He knows schools are still some of the safest places for kids to be, statistically speaking.
“On the one hand, it’s like there’s so many schools so the likelihood of being mine is low but then at the same time that’s kind of what everyone thinks until it happens to them," he said.
Mom added: "You have to be mindful of the security but also we have to live our lives."
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