I can barely wrap my brain around the horrible news, sounds, and sights of the latest of the school shootings. Regardless of where you sit on the gun access issue, hopefully we can all share some common ground. That common ground should be the concern for the safety and well-being of our children. Our common ground should be our outrage that our kids AND teachers show up to school every day wondering if this is the day they will die. Our teachers are committed to protecting and teaching our children and each day they leave their own families with anxiety and stress about threats and potential danger. We should never send our kids to school with an undercurrent of fear. This isn’t healthy for our kids, our schools, our families, communities and nation.
It is tough enough as adults to cope with these types of tragedies but how do you help kids cope? The coping strategies we can use with our children are the same for people of all ages.
If a child shares their anxiety with you, affirm their emotions. Don’t undermine or invalidate their fears. Fears are real things we have to face and naming them is a huge step in learning to conquer them. Tell them you understand and that you share some of their emotions as well. It is important for them to know you know what fear feels like. Help them to develop ways and words to strengthen themselves in the midst of fear and anxiety. Talk about how they could react to a similar situation.
Don’t hide the truth. Ask them what they are hearing and seeing at school and among their friends. Talk about the possibilities and probabilities and then develop a plan if something was to happen. Openly talk about the process should something like this happen in their school. Reinforce to them that you will know about it almost immediately because your school has a system in place. Talk about their school plan and then talk about your family plan – how you will regroup as a family after a situation. Remind them that you are there for them and they are not alone.
Finally, talk to your kids about being kind. This can be tough in a world that feels full of hate and violence and ugliness. But kindness can go a long way.
Finally, help keep a sense of normalcy. Remember the difference between normalcy and complacency. Keep your schedules, your chores, responsibilities, and the rhythm of family life.
For more information we encourage you to check out the American School Counselor Association. They have some great tips HERE.
There really is no simple, easy answer. There isn’t an answer that we will all get behind because we all come at this issue from different perspectives. But we must not stand by and remain silent. We cannot allow one life to be lost in silence. We take a stand, be heard, and continue working together to improve our communities. We do something.
We will remember these lives: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/15/us/florida-school-victims.html