PLEASE NOTE: THE FOLLOWING POST RELATES TO RECENT EVENTS IN FLORIDA AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLASS HIGH SCHOOL.
Written by: Sonia Heidenreich, LGSW
In the days following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many people I work with have talked with me about the impact that this horrific event had on their sense of safety, their feelings of powerlessness, or their pervasive feeling of fear. It’s impossible, regardless of your beliefs about gun laws or mental health policies, to hear of this tragedy and not be affected. What follow is by no means an exhaustive list of ideas, but I wanted to share some thoughts about how to cope. Please know that all of us at Innovative Psychiatry are available for you to speak with if you need to.
- Talk with your children. Ask them how they’re feeling and let them lead the conversation. This means asking open-ended questions, like: How are you feeling about what happened? How are your friends doing? What are your friends/peers/school staff saying about what happened? Is there something you would like to do? What can I do that would help you to feel safe?
- Tell your children, again and again, that you’re there for them if they need you.
- Talk with your own friends or support system. Take time to process your own feelings about what has happened. When you do this, you will be able to model that same level of thoughtfulness for your children. It’s okay for them to see that this affected you, if it did. Your genuine emotions will help to validate their feelings, and will communicate to your children that it’s okay for them to feel whatever it is that they’re experiencing.
- Scholastic created a list of resources for talking with kids and teens about school violence and trauma. It’s thoughtful, relevant for parents or teachers, and can be found here.
- Talk with your parents. Tell them how you’re feeling. Be clear with them about what it is you need from them, whether that’s a listening ear, time spent brainstorming what you can do, or a little extra time alone or with your friends.
- Take care of yourself. If that means having your favorite food for dinner or watching too many episodes of The Office over the weekend, give yourself permission to do that. This doesn’t mean that it’s okay to let your responsibilities to school or other activities fall by the wayside, but it is okay to take a little extra time to be kind to yourself.
- If you’re feeling helpless and scared, see if you can find a way to take action. This could mean talking with your teachers or principals about what your school can do to respond, or it could mean participating in a school walk-out or a march. It could also mean having conversations with peers or adults who hold different views from you, in a respectful, compassionate way.
- Trust that your feelings about what happened and your ideas about what change could look like are valid and worth sharing. Your friends, parents, and teachers want to know what you have to say.
If you need more support, please reach out to your provider or any of us here. If you or someone you know is in immediate need of support, please call or text the crisis numbers here.