San Diego Moms: How to Handle the News of Shootings – Talk to Your Kids

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

It’s fair to say that the news of another school shooting has devastated every mother in the United States. I can tell you that I struggled to get through the rest of the week and was shaky during school breaks. The reality is that the school shooting stirred up some difficult emotions to deal with.

I spoke with Chad Steele, a licensed professional counselor at Thriveworks, who has been trained to work with children through tragedies such as the Texas shooting. He spent 12 years working in a residential treatment center for children aged 5 to 17 and 10 years in an inpatient psychiatric unit with patients aged 4 to 18. Here is what he said.

1. The news of school shootings is disheartening and disturbing for everyone, but especially for parents. How can parents deal with this news?

This news is very alarming to me as a parent of three children (ages 7, 15 and 16). We live in a world where news (good and bad) is delivered almost instantaneously. When bad news is announced so suddenly, it can be devastating because we as the general public process the information almost immediately after the tragedy has occurred. However, given that we live in a hyper-connected world, we can also come together quickly to mourn and share strategies for coping on a larger scale.

Parents can deal with the unpleasant emotions associated with this tragedy and others by using things like grounding techniques. Remember what you have around you. It emphasizes what is real for you right now. Combine a little grounding with an attitude of gratitude. Be grateful for the positive things you have in your life – be it your health, family members, friends, work, or local organizations you are part of. Also, using a physical outlet for feelings like fear or anger can be helpful. This includes exercise, playing a sport, weight lifting, martial arts, yoga, and participating in projects around the house that require physical exertion can all be helpful ways to channel your emotions into an outlet. productive. Others may be called upon to act to support the families affected by the tragedy. This can take many forms, including fundraising efforts or offering words of encouragement and validation to families of victims. Love your family members close at hand and do what you can to keep them safe.

2. What are some things parents need to keep in mind when digesting information about school shootings or violence?

Chad Steele, Certified Professional Advisor at ThriveWorks. Photo courtesy of ThriveWorks

We all know that these tragedies are senseless and can stir up various intense emotions in us including anger, rage, helplessness, etc. Take steps to ensure that members of your household are well and feel safe. This is the primary objective. Then expand slightly outward and talk with your neighbors and friends about what can be done to keep your street, town and community safe. This may include conversations with local educators, law enforcement, first responders, politicians and lawmakers, etc. What changes need to happen to make sure this doesn’t happen in your community? Finally, let’s prevent violence from begetting more violence. It just brings more avoidable tragedy into our lives. Let’s work together with the goal of a better future rather than pointing fingers, shifting blame and focusing on what’s wrong.

3. When should parents seek professional support to deal with this news?

If this news causes significant changes in your daily functioning, i.e. you are no longer able to do the things you normally do on a daily basis, then seek professional help. A local therapist can help you address what’s impacting changes in your sleep patterns, eating habits, concentration levels, self-care routines, and socialization. If you need immediate help, call 911 or go to your local emergency department for an emergency mental health assessment. This can often be the quickest route to a change in needed medication or other forms of mental health treatment.

4. How should parents talk about school shootings or violence with their children? What to say to a 5 year old?

Listen first. Find out what your kids know about the situation and what questions they have. For young children, the concern is not to traumatize them unnecessarily by exposing them to details of the drama that they would not encounter elsewhere. Your young children need to know, whether they know a lot or little about the recent shooting, that you will do your best to keep them safe. This includes what you will do at home to keep them safe as well as talking with school staff to find out what your child’s school is doing to keep them safe on a day-to-day basis.

5. What can you say to a teenager?

For teens and older kids, most of them are likely connected to some form of social media and learned about the incident through that medium. You can ask them what they saw of the incident. You can ask them what they think of the incident and review what they can do to keep them safe and what you are doing. You can ask them for thoughts or ideas on what can be done in your home as well as in your community to help everyone feel safer. Also encourage your older children to report suspicious posts from their peers on social media. It was reported in the news that the gunman in Texas had posted social media posts in the days leading up to the incident that contained him with guns along with vague threats (“Wait until tomorrow…”) . If they see such posts by children in their school or community, they should report it to local school counselors and/or law enforcement, as well as the app on which the posts were posted. We often learn the details and motivations of shooters after the fact. If people show a tendency to post about violent activity and vague threats, that should prompt someone to have a conversation with that person about their mental state.

5. What other aspects should be considered when discussing mental health and school shootings?

When it comes to mental health and violent incidents like school shootings, bomb threats, or other threats of violence, the perpetrators of these incidents are often ostracized and marginalized members of the community. They may feel disenfranchised, ignored or that some members of the community don’t care about them. If you notice a child who is lonely and sullen, reach out and ask how he is doing. You don’t have to be best friends, but sometimes just asking how someone is doing and offering them a word of encouragement can make a difference.

6. Do you have any other ideas to consider?

Preventing such violence in the future will work on several fronts. Politicians, lawmakers and law enforcement must assess the needs and resources to increase the protection schools provide for our children and their staff. There also needs to be a closer look at how we deal with people with mental illness who voice threats of violence and what can be done to protect others from these people as well as themselves.


San Diego Moms is published every Saturday. Do you have a story idea? Email [email protected] and follow her on Instagram at @hoawritessd.

About Christian M.

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