Posted on March 15, 2013 | No Comments
Many of you have undoubtedly heard about the seven year-old in Maryland who was suspended for chewing a Poptart into the shape of a pistol. As a former school psychologist and current psychotherapist, I am interested in how schools respond to situations. Apparently, the school district made counselors available the following day to speak to children who felt they had been traumatized by this incident.
Are they kidding? Labeling this event as a trauma does nothing to help children. In fact, it may even disable children’s natural potential for developing resiliency, because it sends the message that this was a dangerous event. This raises anxiety.
As a therapist I work with children and adults who must cope with real crises in their lives. Regardless of one’s age, people can be deeply affected by their life experiences. One of the strategies I (and other therapists) use is from the cognitive behavioral therapy perspective. It teaches people to examine their feelings and accompanying thoughts. Some thoughts are healthy, while others can be irrational; e.g. “I will never be able to ride in an elevator.” By changing how we think, we can often change our feelings. Children get excited−and feel empowered−to know that they can help themselves feel better by changing some of their thoughts to more appropriate and healthy ones.
Are children going to be empowered (and are they going to develop resilience) if they are taught to think that a pistol-shaped Poptart (especially with an accompanying “pop” sound) is a threat to their well-being?
I think not. What do you think?