When did we ever expect that parenting skills would include dealing with school shootings? And yet here we are – having to deal with our own emotional fallout while we also worry about our child, and the effect of these events on them.
As a parent, we need to focus on two questions:
One – how am I doing?
This is critical to how our children will do. Many parents are experiencing a range of difficult emotions, as this session portrays. It’s normal to feel sadness and anger, fear and even heightened anxiety. So we put our oxygen mask on first – Is our anxiety turning into catastrophic thinking or spiraling fears? Are we getting lost in social media or the news? We need to realize our own limits. We also need to realize the reality of the risk to our children vs. what is being triggered. Statistically, our children are safe. Finding out the measures your child’s school is taking, advocating for calm effective steps, these can help with feelings of helplessness. Find partners or friends who help ground you, seek out practices that de escalate. Perhaps this is the time we choose to become politically active. No matter what we decide, Our children need us to be grounded and resilient, even when we share vulnerable feelings.
Two – how is my child doing?
Depending on their age, we need to be sensitive to verbal and non-verbal behaviors such as clinginess or isolation, moodiness or fear. Be available for whatever feelings come up, or no feelings. As this therapist says – there is no right way to feel. What has the child been told at school? How are her friends doing?
Talking about other’s reactions can be a sideways way to care for our own children. For most of us – our real priority is, “What is best for my child?” If we let our anxiety dominate, we can end up restricting their experience and communicating that the world is an out of control, unsafe place. This is not a recipe for mental health for children who need to have hope and to feel they can be effective and impact their world. We are modeling resilience, even as we are horrified and heart broken about the losses we are witnessing. This is asking a lot. Set limits, support each other and find a way to take care of yourself in this difficult time.