As I heard about Friday’s incident, I automatically dissociated from the tragedy that was all over the news. Like everyone else, I thought “How could someone do this to kids?” My thoughts then went to the kids who witnessed this horror and the effect this will have on them. As a therapist or someone that works in the human services field we are constantly dealing with secondary traumatic stress. With years of experience, we are taught to mentally separate from the tragedy and take a reality approach to deal with what lies ahead.
I was shopping last night and a woman said to me, “sometimes I can’t stand my teenager but they are still here when some parents don’t even have their children.” This really hit home to me because as a therapist I am constantly hearing “Does she hate me, I can’t deal with these teenage years or everything is a need vs. a want.” However, when I think about all those parents who sit in my office and discuss these hard teenage years, tonight they are home thanking God that their children are with them and feeling the pain for all the parents affected by this tragedy.
As a parent of a 9-year-old, I had to explain to him what had happened in the world today after school. He received the message in a mature way stating “how horrible it was for the kids who had to see his friends die and why would someone want to do that to kids and a principal or a therapist like you mom?” I was stuck for an answer but lying wasn’t an option for me. I had to be honest. I tried to simplify my answer because ‘ I don’t know “ wasn’t going to cut it. I answered the best I could knowing my son and how he could handle what I was going to say.
The event that occurred in Connecticut was just a reminder that life is not only fragile but can be fleeting. Raising children with all the challenges this world presents is not for the faint of heart but is not rocket science either. We often take for granted what we have. That includes a difficult child that is only doing what their age tells them to do. I couldn’t ever imagine being a parent and finding out that something happened at my child’s school to go and wait to see if my child walked out.
As a parent we just do the best we can. There is no exact formula to figure it out. Our job is to unconditionally love, teach, set limits, support, along with another million things. The only way to handle questions from your child about things that happen in this world is to listen with an open heart and open mind. Have faith in yourself that you will be able to be honest enough to tailor your answer to help your child understand something that can’t possibly be explained. The world is a wonderful place and we have to be careful not to color it in based on the reality of what could happen.