As Monday approaches and we ready our children for school, I would suspect most of us have a little bit of dread in our hearts. I do. There is unease as we return our children to school. This post covers information for supporting your children but also information on supporting yourself during these upcoming days, too.
The past few days have been bewildering. Making sense of the tragedy in Connecticut is a huge challenge, particularly as the details of the shooting simultaneously unfold along side the details of the beautiful lost children and teachers and protectors. There’s little to say more than this is tragic and head-shaking. There is just no sense to what unfolded here in America last Friday. And although there are stories of incredible heroism we are left mourning and aching.
In my 4 years using social media, no single topic has over-run my channels like this shooting. We are all aghast and terrified, sad and stunned. As President Obama said, “We’re heartbroken.” When I opened the Sunday New York Times this morning, I gulped and teared-up again—I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the number of 6 and 7 year-olds that we’ve lost. Especially as one sat next to me at the breakfast table.
The randomness of this event allows us all to relate to the details of the horror and loss with uncomfortable familiarity.
We can and will work towards a safer future for our children. Don’t ease up on yourself or those in your community for action–improved communication, access to mental health, examining gun control–as months unfold. The future comes quickly. Today and tomorrow are about the ongoing effort to bolster yourself and your child in feeling great about the days ahead, in and out of school at the mall, wherever you find yourselves.
Tips For Parents With Children Going Back To School
- Your child’s school is safe. The fact remains that this random, horrific shooting is an anomaly. Your child’s school is a very safe place to be. Remind yourself, and your children if they ask, that this tragedy was an exception.
- Get the information you need to feel safe this week. Send an email to the principal, your children’s teacher, and/or fellow parents–perhaps commit to participating in ensuring you have good safety measures in place at your school. Leaving a VM message, sending an email, and/or joining the community of families wanting to ensure safety as the days unfold will likely ease your fears. Get involved. Write a letter to The President (The White House/1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW/Washington, D.C. 20500) or your congressman. Action is an antidote to anxiety.
- Take breaks from media reports. Like any overwhelming informational stream, we need to compartmentalize. Our curiosity for details is human. This stems out of our compassion for our own children. Yet relentless consumption will only steep anxiety and heartache.
- Sketch out a plan for today right now. Think about your ideal day. When do you want to hear news updates, or not? If information about Newtown or your own child helps you feel secure, incorporate updates into your day. But space them out so that you have blocks of time with no information flow. Close the Facebook window at work, watch the news only for 1/2 hour at a time. So much of the media has covered tips for protecting your children from media but remember that taking care of your anxiety, your fear, and your own stress to this tragedy is very important for your children, too. Check in with your school in the AM, and a check-in with media at a time where you can deal with it. Otherwise, return to your daily routine as best you can–without the news.
- I like this list from the American Psychological Association for adults in dealing with the stress in the aftermath of this tragedy.
- Use your support network: your friends, your church or place of worship, your own doctor or your family for support. These people want and will listen to you.
Tips For Supporting Children Who Remain Concerned Or Scared About The Shootings
- First thing, remember you know your child better than anyone. Before you explain anything or offer up further details or explanations you think they may need, ask what they have heard, what they have learned, and ask how it makes them feel. Listen long before you speak. However, know that silence isn’t helpful in crisis — if your children don’t speak about it, open up the conversation and start talking. Continue to ask open-ended questions this week and beyond.
- Discuss all of the safety measures you take in your own home and at school to protect your children from harm.
- Listen for errors in their understandings so that you can help clear up misinformation and misconceptions. This is something we can do really well!
- If your child doesn’t know about the shootings, consider talking with them about it prior to returning to school on Monday or Tuesday. It’s likely a segment of their peers will know about the events in Newtown, so it’s better for them to hear first about the shooting from you.
- Keep in mind age really matters here. Children 8 and under really don’t have an accurate understanding of space and time. Seeing footage from the school may confuse them or they may believe it’s happening at their own school. Be really careful when exposing them to any media (TV, printed papers, internet browsing) that has photos or words they can read.
- Honesty is best. Answer candidly but refrain from all gory details. No young child needs to know the age of children who were murdered last Friday. No young child needs to know the types of weapons or bullets or even the number of children and teachers who died. But children really do want to know how you feel. Talk about what you do deal with your own sadness or complicated emotions right now. You don’t have to know WHY this happened–it’s okay to tell your children you don’t know why this happened in Connecticut.
- Monday afternoon/evening check in with your children about their day. Ask open-ended questions to see what they’ve learned or how they are feeling. Continue to check in over the weeks. This upsetting experience is unfortunately far from over.
Resources For Parents, Teachers, Teens, And Students For Coping With The Tragedy
- If your child is having a difficult time coping with the news, DON’T HESITATE to check in with their doctor or nurse practitioner. We are trained to help support children and families who are suffering.
- American Academy of Pediatrics has links and resources for children and teens, parents, and teachers.
- Watch experts Dr Hilt and Dr Schonfeld discuss how to talk with children about tragedy.
- I also really liked this NYT summary on talking with children & teens and this from DiscoveryNews featuring pediatric psychiatrist, Dr Mike Brody–great talking points and reminders for all of us.