As I watched the events unfold in Connecticut, our hearts collectively broke. As the authorities search for answers, we are left with many personal questions. How do we handle questions from our children? How do we face our own fears for their safety?
How do we teach our children to react to a dangerous situation, if at all? Are local schools safe? What can we learn from this? I received a huge number of comments and questions from readers. So I will answer in one response in the space allotted.
1. We have no guarantees, today is all we are promised - one day at a time, so make the most of it. Each day is a treasure. I always recommend to parents (and everyone) to have the calmest mornings possible and to always take a moment to hug and kiss your children and tell them how much they are loved.
The biggest regrets I hear in my office following the loss of a loved one are “I wish I could have told them one more time how much I love them.” It is especially sweet to start and end the day in prayer with your children.
2. It is documented that children who are raised with faith in God are the most resilient and have a greater chance to grow up as good citizens.
3. Protect your children from the horrid details of this event. We can create post-traumatic stress within ourselves and our children simply by over-exposure to news coverage.
(Or in many cases, any exposure.)
The event is far too frightening for children to digest. It can create unnecessary terror including fears of being separated from you and feeling unsafe at school.
4. For children who do know, answer their questions in simple, age-appropriate terms. Keep it short and remind them they are loved and that they are safe at school. Notify your school counselor (and seek outside counseling if needed) if your child develops fears or changes in behavior that concern you.
5. Having been a guidance counselor and student concern specialist in or local schools, I can tell you first-hand, that our schools have great security measures - many in place since Columbine in 1999.
There have always been measures to keep your child from being picked up by unauthorized parties.
This is an especially safe time in our schools, because every procedure is being reviewed, practiced and updated as needed. The school personnel are truly vigilant, and the safety of your precious ones is first and foremost in their minds.
6. Personal safety awareness should be taught, from putting on the seatbelt before the car even starts, to avoiding potentially dangerous situations. Well taught martial arts programs can build awareness, confidence and self-discipline. They are not teaching children to be super heroes, but to make quick and smart decisions in all cases without violence.
7. If your child has special needs, seek out the best care and follow the home care advice. Always take any threats of harm to self or others seriously and take action.
8. Pray for peace and healing.
(Contact Liz via firstname.lastname@example.org. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.)