My tears seem never-ending as the realization of the impact of the Newtown, CT tragedy consumes every family in America. Like all parents, I too, cannot seem to get my head around the senseless shooting of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Especially since schools are supposed to be a safe place for our children.
Our primary job as parents and providers is to protect our children. Despite all the heroic efforts by Sandy Hook teachers & staff one mentally ill young man was able to shatter all the lifelong dreams of Sandy Hook families. How do we ever feel safe and not scared of school again?
This fear is realistic, but how we as parents deal with it and teach are kids to deal is critical to getting through this seemingly insurmountable mourning.
Our thirst for information is what drives the media to broadcast the images of that horrible day in Connecticut. Since we are a nation of free speech none of us can stop this continual, repetitive exposure of this violent act. But here are some ways you can protect your children and help them work through their fear.
First, elementary school children are concrete thinkers as they take things very literally, so it is nearly impossible for them to make sense out of this tragedy. As adult parents none of this makes sense to us either, so be sure to give your child’s feelings increased attention from you. Listen to their fears, comfort them, reassure them and let them express all their feelings as they are all legitimate!
Second, we are all guilty of unconscious cell phone conversations. Be mindful of your child listening to you talk to another adult about your worries and fears, as that could scare your kids even more. Turn off the TV, record what you’d like to hear later when the kids are not around.
Third, talk to your kids about a time when they felt safe; what did they do to feel this way? What helped them through their fear? Do activities to deal with their fears like light your own candle in memory or hold on to your favorite stuffed animal, listen to some music, write a letter/card to Sandy Hook school or draw a picture (art work) for the students in that community.
The key is to never forget how to help others in pain and keep moving so you don’t stay stuck in your own grief. Yes, it is scary to let your kids go back to school, but the only way to deal with fear is to face it head on.
Parents stay scared longer typically than children do, so don’t worry if your kids seemingly ‘get over it’ quicker than you do. But, if your child does exhibit profound worry that keeps them from normal play and interaction with others get supportive counseling for them. Lets take this opportunity as parents to teach our children about their feelings and how to deal with them in healthy ways. Sending out my love, support & prayers to all of you parents, Dr. Ann
*Coming soon: Pocket Full of Feelings, a product for family emotional literacy learning.