Yesterday marked a very sad day for America. A troubled young man entered a school and shot 20 six and seven year olds and 7 adults before turning the weapon on himself.
Many of us take our kids to school every day. We trust that they are safe there. The children trust that they are safe there. So, how do we possibly wrap our brains around what happened in Newtown, CT? The parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School thought their kids were safe, too, yesterday.
Where do we go with all of this? The grief is profound. Everybody - parent or not - feels a pit in their stomach and a pain of unknown location that just hurts and hurts and hurts. I almost feel as though I can't sit still, I can't find the right place for myself, I want to crawl out of my own body. I don't know what to do with all of this pain. I know I'm not alone.
As parents, we have to file this experience somewhere in our minds. Perhaps we could become activists for something we believe in strongly...gun control, mental illness education, media exposure, etc... In the meantime, how do we send our kids to school next week?
This is where parenting gets hard. (As if it weren't hard already) We have to talk to our kids about these types of tragedies (if they have heard about it). We have to speak to them in a way that is age-appropriate and not scary. We have to tell them that they are safe and we have to believe it ourselves. Shootings are happening more. The media would like you to think that they are happening daily in your town and every town. That just isn't the case. These are tragic and isolated events. We are fearful, of course. It is essential that we also be trusting, confident and filled with faith that all will be well.
Our kids need to grow up with a sense that they are safe and secure and that Mom and Dad have everything taken care of. This is the foundation on which childhood SHOULD be built. Terrible things do happen and when they do, we deal with it by teaching our kids the coping skills to move forward. These tragedies are far enough removed that we should not allow them to traumatize our kids and to destroy what I call their "veil of security". They need to feel safe so they can explore, grow and develop without the burden of worry, too. They need to trust that the world is a place they can trust and predict.
My professional recommendation to parents is this. Sit with the discomfort of this horrible tragedy. We can't make it go away and we don't want to suppress it so much that it takes root in our bodies. Feel the pain, share your thoughts with other adults, and be okay with the fact that life is filled with discomfort. This is an appropriate reason to feel it. Stay with it, accept it and let it pass naturally in time. Don't let it interfere with your life, nor with your parenting and allow joy to peek through at times, too. That's when the healing begins.