HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A new memorial was erected at Quioccasin Middle School Sunday to pay tribute to Lucia Bremer, the 13-year-old girl shot and killed Friday in Henrico's Far West End.
A group of students spent hours in the rain tying green ribbons on the fencing surrounding the football field, and they also spelled out "Lucia" in flowers, according to a neighbor.
At the spot where Bremer died near Godwin High School, a makeshift memorial of flowers, messages, balloons, and stuffed animals continues to grow. West End neighbors also tied green bows to their mailboxes to show support as a community.
On Monday, Bremer's classmates will notice her absence, and the student body will feel a range of emotions. That's why Richmond-area child psychologist, Dr. Sandra Henderson, is urging parents to be a steady support system for them.
"Parents are the rock for their children, and they really need to be that in times of upheaval or a lot of extra stress," said Henderson.
Henderson explained the traumatic incident could take a major toll of some kids' emotional and mental health as they deal with the loss.
"You'll see an impact for a couple weeks, maybe a month of two. And then a smaller subset will be impacted longer," said Henderson. "It depends on how they're able to process the information."
So how should that conversation be approached? She encourages parents to gently ask about it upfront, and then let the child steer the conversation. A good starting question can be something as simple as "What do you think about this situation?"
"It's important to follow the child's lead and listen to what they have to say before providing too much information,"
Henderson explained. "Because we don't know what's in children's minds. They might be worried about their personal safety in their home, worried about their teachers, they might be worried about the playgrounds."
She also offered advice for parents whose children are hurt, scared, or struggling.
"It's important for us to validate their feelings to let them know, 'I understand that you're scared' and mirror their feelings exactly without adding more feelings to them," Henderson said. "Reassurance is huge."
Henderson said it's important to limit a child's exposure to hearing about the incident in an effort to reduce stress and anxiety.
Before children head back to class, she suggests letting them know that they're in good hands.
"The school knows how to handle this, and they know what to do," said Henderson. "Try to reassure your child that they're safe and taken care of. Try to keep their world as normal as possible."
When they return home school, Henderson recommends checking in with children. Her advice is to start by asking about a good part of their day and then ask what may have been hard for them.
"That opens the door for them to be able to say something and parents can engage from their child's reaction, their face, their emotional reaction, if maybe they need to ask another question or two to make sure their child is okay,"
As time goes on, Henderson said it's important to pay attention to signs of trauma.
Here are some things she says parents can look out for:
- Greater distractibility
- Unable to focus
- Hyper surveillance of their surroundings
- Easily startled or on edge
- Avoiding certain activities, conversations, or people
- Trouble sleeping
- Emotional dysregulation
Henderson said if none of these signs fade over time, parents should consider seeking professional help.