Cover Photo Credit: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Our thoughts and prayers go out to not only Butler High School, but every school that has experienced a school shooting. Our counseling practice mourns with the community, yet stands strong as a support for those in need.We are in a time where the unthinkable happens at a level of increasing frequency. Simply stated- school shootings are devastating. These tragedies leaves us raw, not only our students, but as adults and parents. Parents find themselves wondering how to support their children's worries, while living with the truth of their own. It is common to experience a wide range of emotions after a school shooting such as anger, anxiety, fear, numbness, hopelessness, or shock. Supporting your child through this time can be challenging, but it is possible. Here are some tips to ensure you are taking care of your children, as well as yourself:
Yes- it is scary to move forward when a tragedy happens close to home. However, it is important to explore your own fears and ensure you are not increasing your child's level of anxiety. For example, being clingy with them when departing can create an added layer of fear for them. Potentially causing them to now worry about you, as well as their own concerns. It is normal to share your level of concern with your child, but save conversations about your deepest fears for your age-appropriate friends, your natural supports or even a therapist.
As easy as it might be to want to change your child's routine, it is important to retain a level of stability for your child. Using regular schedules helps your child have a level of predictability that leads to increased feelings of security and autonomy. In the wake of a school shooting you may feel the desire to keep your child home from school or their extra-curricular activities, but doing so will only increase your child's level of anxiety about going themselves.
No doubt, if your child is aware of a school shooting than your child has feelings related to it. Allow your child to discuss their emotions and validate that they are normal. If your child hasn't mentioned their feelings, simply ask them what they think without putting your thoughts on them. Don't assume because they haven't said anything means they aren't feeling anything. Sometimes children may feel confused. For instance, they could be saddened, but unsure why because they didn't know or have a close connection with the victim(s). Let them know this is normal, we are human- and it is possible to feel hurt even for those we may not know personally.
Remind your child that though school shootings have occurred more frequently in the recent past, they are still considered unlikely to occur. Let them know that there are people in place inside and outside of their school working hard to ensure that they are safe. Have an open dialogue with your child about the safety measures at their school. Explore with them about the already established drills/precautions, any new ones, and how they are implemented. Find out if your child has any questions related to their safety. Attempt to find the answers to the questions that you're unsure about from direct sources.
Explore with your child about the importance of being aware of any suspicious behavior at their school or in the community. Explain to them about sharing this information or any potential threats, such as bullying, with a trusted and safe adult. Empower them to know that there is a level of difference that they can make as an individual by doing so. See if your child has any ideas of things to do to help fight against school shootings, or to possibly be a support to the schools that have experienced them. This can help your child feel a level of control and that they can make a difference.
Be mindful of how you and your child are feeling. Remember that it is normal to feel many different emotions after a school shooting, even lasting for days. However, if you or your child are struggling with your daily living or routine due to intrusive thoughts or emotional instability, it is important to reach out for help from a mental health professional.
At Craig Counseling, we have therapists who have opened their availability to make space for those who have been affected by the Butler High School tragedy. Do not hesitate to contact us with questions or additional information related to our counseling services. We are here to support our community.
Jessica Craig Driggers, Ed.S, M.Ed, LPC owns and manages Craig Counseling. She started the practice to promote wellness in the community and de-stigmatize mental illness.She has built a wonderful team of therapists that specialize in individual, couples, and family counseling to serve the needs of everyone.
CLICK HERE to learn more about Jessica.