Youthful innocence.... Robbed yet again from our children with the latest shooting so close to home. We are all only one degree of separation from those who have lost loved ones and it is so senseless and painful. And yet, we must figure out how to provide a "new normal" for our children and teens.
Conversation with our children is so important. Some will react with nonstop chatter, others will withdraw. Family activities together, such as a sing around the campfire or s'mores roast will illicit feelings of safety and innocence, and potentially provide a comfortable place to grieve and tell stories. Old folk song standards as goofy as Kumbaya may help you, the parent, find the emotional memory of a simpler time, and provide a sense of balance and calm that you will then be able to pass on to your children.
Below are some "to do's" you can consider as you try to guide your family back to a new normal. (I have read many articles trying to summarize here.)
1. Limit the exposure to the news. Hard to do when a phone is in everyone's hands with access to up to the minute information and alerts. Try a family "detox" by going to the beach or on some kind of "staycation".
2. Understand your own emotions. I'm not saying "get a grip", I'm saying understand your own grief and fear so that you can have better control when talking with your children. Journaling, to get it out, can be very helpful in putting structure to out of control emotions. And hence, being able to help your children find structure as well.
3. Hear your children. Allow them to express and feel the feelings they have. Creating a safe environment for them to share is critical, because they must get these emotions out in order to start the healing process. Give them time. You cannot fix it for them, but you can provide the guidance for them to heal themselves.
4. Be clear about your love for your children. Not just with words, but with action, make sure your children know they are safe and loved. Put down your personal distractions such as phone or work, and talk eye to eye, touching if comfortable. If your teen is leaving the house, stand up and give them a big hug and say, "Have a wonderful time. I love you."
5. If life is not returning to normal, seek help. Give yourself and your children time to heal. And yet, if you notice sleeplessness, grades dropping, irrational fear of spaces, stomachaches, or other changed behaviors, it is time to get help. Don't let it go too long.
6. Get involved in your school. National government moves like a large cruise ship. Way too slowly. You can certainly get involved. But your own PTA and local government can move more swiftly while it will make a difference in your child's lives. Get involved. Attend PTA meetings. Listen and learn. Be present. Volunteer. Your children will feel your concern and protection.
We have all been here too many times; having these moments with our children. If you have tips to share with other parents. If you need help, and want to reach out, please email or call me. If I have resources I can share with you, I certainly will.
I share my thoughts, prayers, hopes and actions for a brighter, safer future for all of us, standing side-by-side with you and your family.
Cyber-hugs and prayers,