school shooting expert
Dr. David Schonfeld, Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

By Jill Fox

As the commemoration of the horrific mass shooting in Parkland approaches, local schools are holding a parent night to discuss how to support loved ones.

After visiting Parkland almost monthly since the shooting, Dr. David Schonfeld, Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, is returning for this critical discussion.

For over 30 years, Dr. Schonfeld has provided training to schools on supporting students and staff at times of crisis and loss, which included guiding Marjory Stoneman Douglas teachers on the first day back to class after the shooting.

“Families have had time to observe their children and how they’re doing and make adjustments,” he said. “I’m not expecting to give them a lot of technical information that they don’t know; I’m just giving them an opportunity to ask their questions.”

According to Schonfeld, the commemoration of such events can remind people of how they felt that day or of the loss more acutely.

Here is a list of things families should know before February 14.

1 Have sensitivity 

One of the things parents have to recognize is if their children act differently and have concerns about things unrelated to the two-year mark.

2 Watch for signs 

Dr. Schonfeld said, individuals who are under distress often act less mature. They may seem a little more self-centered, irritable, or inflexible. Children sometimes act like they do not recognize the seriousness of what the day represents, but it’s that they are, and that’s difficult for them.

3 Supervise your children

Dr. Schonfeld explained that schools decided to make February 14 a half-day to try and balance an appreciation of the effect that the day might have on the people most directly impacted, but also recognizing that schools need to be open for support and counseling.

“It’s really a time to be with family and friends,” he said, “Not a time for children to sit with upset feelings by themselves.”

In addition to being with a trusted adult who cares about them, Dr. Schonfeld said parents should make sure they’re providing support and a little more monitoring of their children on that day.

4  Ask questions

At Dr. Schonfeld’s gathering, he doesn’t plan on spending his time presenting content. His goal is to be available to answer questions and offer strategies to use to provide support.

5 It’s okay to worry

“For parents, the predominant concern that I hear voiced is, I’m worried,” said Schonfeld, “I’m worried that I’m not doing everything I can for my child, I’m worried that they’re still struggling, I’m worried that I’m still struggling.”

Schonfeld is hoping this will allow them to ask questions and get some of their concerns answered. He doesn’t aim to take away the distress that they have from these tragic events. He tries to minimize it, so they’re not worried about things they don’t have to be concerned about and don’t have to be distressed because by feeling insecure that they’re not doing the right thing.

6 Act “normal”

In the past, some parents have attended his presentations because their children are not exhibiting distress and they didn’t know if they could be missing something.

“Hopefully, I can help them by providing some conversation that will help them feel more confident that they’re doing the best by their child, their family, and themselves,” said Schonfeld.

Attend the meeting at Westglades

Parents who want to hear Dr. Schonfeld can join him at Westglades Middle School auditorium at 1100 Holmberg Road Thursday, February 13, between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Author Profile

Jill Fox
Jill Fox
Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She has worked in public relations and television for over 20 years. Fox lives in Parkland with her husband and their two children.