We’re all feeling helpless and horrified in the wake of another mass shooting in the United States. Here are five practical ways to help your family cope today and in the coming days.
Coping with Tragedy
1) Bear Witness, But Give Yourself Permission to Disconnect.
Yes, we need to be informed about what’s happening. And yes, as psychologist Tori Cordiano, Ph.D., Research Director of Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls, says in an interview today, we parents may feel the responsibility to bear witness, to not turn away from the suffering of fellow parents and families. Hearing the news, though, is not the same as subjecting ourselves to a constant loop of horror. Know when it’s time to set down the phones and close the screens.
2) Keep Things Normal, and Check In With Kids.
Keep things relatively normal at home. Kids need the safety of routines and knowing their parents are okay, says Dr. Cordiano. Let kids know we’re available, and discuss the news in an age-appropriate way. Rather than having one big talk, check in periodically (such as after school to see how the day went and what they heard at school). Our kids may need reminders or limits to take healthy breaks from the news and to avoid graphic or upsetting coverage.
3) Get Outside.
If at all possible, says Dr. Cordiano, get outside in nature today. Even a short walk or some time in a park or backyard can help soothe stress.
4) Do Something Good.
After mass killings, it’s normal to feel helpless, or that the world is falling apart. When it seems like goodness may be losing the battle, consider doing something today that adds good to the world. It doesn’t have to be related to the tragedy; simply doing something purposeful and kind can trigger positive feelings and restore a small sense of control. Maybe take a collection bag for trash on your outdoor walk, or bake cookies for a lonely neighbor.
5) Grant Yourself Grace and Space.
As a parent, you want to be strong for your children. But you can also grant yourself space to feel your emotions, says Dr. Cordiano. That may mean taking some time in the bathroom to cry, or it may be allowing yourself to feel anger and decide how to channel that into proactive next steps.
There’s no one way to get this right, parents. We’re all struggling with this news, and that’s normal. Reach out to supportive people in your life, and know that we’re here to help, too.