I was sitting at a training on working with couples when I saw the reports of the school shooting in Connecticut today. It seems so unbelievable. I tear up thinking about the children and adults who were killed. I grieve for the school personnel, the families and the community and all of the lost days and dreams of the future.
Adding to the tragedy is that there will be no words that can give a reasonable explanation for this to have happened. No matter what type of rational the gunman had there is no explanation that would satisfy us. It is unfathomable to the vast majority.
I know there is evil in the world. I know that so many of us are broken people and some people, unfortunately, irrevocably so. What do we do about that? What do we do so more individuals don’t die and more families don’t have to suffer?
At home, you can speak to your children if they ask about it. Some children will have a lot of questions and it may barely register the event. Both responses are normal. Be patient with multiple questions at multiple times. Be patient with having to repeat yourself.
I know I say this all the time but trust your instincts. No one knows better than you what information will be beneficial for them to know.
Listen to your children’s concerns and feelings. Validate those feelings. Answer their questions as well as you can.
Reassure, reassure, reassure. Let your child know you will keep them safe. Let them know the teachers will keep them safe and that other adults like police officers are there to protect them also.
Keep to your routine. This means do the same things you do every day. This means your child goes back to school. Young kids often already are anxious about school but it will be reassuring for them to know that you believe they are going to be safe at school.
If the child wants to do something – help them figure out what to do. Maybe they could light a candle or design a card or send a few dollars to families. As with adults, sometimes taking an active step helps.
Remind yourself that children are resilient.
While you are at it, remind yourself that you are resilient too. This tragedy may have brought up fears for you. You assume each day that your children are safe going to school. Talk about any concerns or anxiety you may have with other adults. If you start to see signs that your child is not coping well (e.g.: anxiety or fear of school, loss of appetite, out of character anger bursts etc.) don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your child’s school likely has a social worker or counselor who is there just for the purpose of helping kids. There are also other therapists and professionals trained to help you or your child through challenging situations.
I ask myself what else I can do with an event such as this. I think sometimes all we can do is stand witness to tragedy. I can say I know this happened and I know it is horrific. I honor those who were there and I mourn with you. I can continue to encourage people who are broken or victimized or hurt to seek help. I can shout from the roof tops that we are all in this together and there is no shame in speaking up or getting help.
Sometimes there are no words.