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Addressing your own anxiety as parent is the first step to helping your child with theirs.

Following the recent school shooting tragedy at Covenant School many parents are wondering, “How is my child handling this, what do I need to say to them to ease their mind?” Well, step one is to evaluate your own anxiety on the topic. It’s very valid as a parent to be quite anxious about how to protect you and your family given recent events. Before we address some warning signs to look for in our children that may indicate a need for additional support first let’s focus on you.

Be mindful of the amount of news you are consuming.

While it’s important to stay informed we have to be mindful when too much, is just too much. I know firsthand we have all been very shocked and as a result curious about the shooting. This has led to a lot of reading updates and watching video footage. It can be helpful to ask ourselves how we are feeling after we finish reading or doom scrolling. If the answer is anxious then it likely that we need to take a step away.

Do something that is pleasant and a typical part of your routine.

When things feel really chaotic in the world falling back into routine can really help ease some of our anxiety. Decide if you need to decompress by yourself or with your family. It’s ok to need time for yourself. Taking care of ourselves allows us to be a calm safe space for our children which they desperately need right now. Take a walk, take a shower or bath, watch your favorite show, anything that allows our brain to have a break from the intensity of recent events. If we aren’t able to snag a few minutes for ourselves also remember co-regulation is an option. Take family walk, make dinner together, play a family game. These are helpful ways to decompress as a family.

Reach out for your own support.

Maybe this looks like talking to your partner, calling a close friend or maybe even scheduling a session with a therapist. Make sure you have a space to process as well. Feeling as though we have a handle on our own feelings makes us better equipped to support our children if they need help. Many counseling practices in the area are offering free or reduced rate sessions for anyone in the community that may be affected by the shooting and need additional support.

If it feels foreign to put your own mental health first remember this. Our children pick up on our anxiety, even if they are young they can sense it. We just want to be mindful that we are being their calm safe place, not unintentionally adding more anxiety. We are human and not going to be able to do this perfectly but taking care of yourself is worth it and will positively benefit your child.

Now let’s switch our focus to our children.

Warning signs of distress to look for in our children following the recent school shooting:

  1. Asking a lot of questions about the shooting.

  2. Changes in behavior (sleep and appetite increases or decreases).

  3. Difficulty falling or staying asleep or having bad dreams.

  4. Increased crying or irritability.

  5. Not getting schoolwork done or falling behind.

  6. Withdrawing, declining social events that they usually would want to attend.

  7. Having new headaches or stomach aches

  8. Recurrent thoughts or images of shooting or other scenarios in which they may feel unsafe.

  9. Avoidance of sounds, people, places, or other things remind them of the violence

It’s hard to know if a conversation with your child could reconcile some of these signs of distress but it’s a place to start. There are a lot of articles circulating addressing how to talk to your children about events of mass violence. We are always happy to share these specific resources if needed. If problems still persist our child therapists are happy to also offer a parent consult to assess if your child requires additional professional support.

Please reference our website or give us a call for more information.

P: 615- 377- 1153

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