I remember attending school when school shootings didn’t occur. Columbine happened three years after I graduated high school. The event that occurred last Wednesday has all of us-- young and old--feeling unsettled and on high alert. No matter what side we stand on as a solution, there is a collective feeling that something must be done. This school nurse doesn’t have the earthly answers everyone is looking for, but I can give you some insight into how things have been in the school clinic and in my home this last week.
I know everyone “parents” their children differently. My husband and I have chosen, as a rule, to keep our children from the nightly news. Our daughter deals with anxiety. Placing the problems of the world on our children’s shoulders doesn’t seem like something they should deal with if it’s not necessary. I also selfishly would rather sleep through the night than contend with middle-of-the-night crying and stomach aches. We did talk with our children about what they may hear at school on Thursday morning, and we fielded several questions from them. The first question that came up: “Was it close to here?” I understand the fear of proximity. Isn’t it ironic though, if it doesn’t happen close to home, we seem less afraid? Parkland, Florida was too close to home.
At school Thursday morning, I was met by fifth-grade girls who were scared and worried. The best advice I could give them in that moment was to know God keeps us in His hands and to do exactly what their teacher says during drills and emergencies. Throughout the day there were stomach aches that were not likely caused by test anxiety, but rather by the horrible event that happened in Parkland, Florida. I had a few middle and high school students who deal with anxiety come to the clinic unable to stop thinking about the shooting that occurred. One expressed wanting to be homeschooled so they would not have to fear the unknown at school. Another was upset because other students were constantly talking about what had occurred in class and in the hallways. Other students were putting plans in place on what they would do if a shooting occurred. What hit closest to home for me was when my son asked me on the way home Thursday, “What should I do if a shooter comes into my classroom?”.
Here are five suggestions on how to communicate with your child during difficult times:
- Keep the conversation open and honest. It’s okay to say you don’t have the answer. Kids are smart. They know when we lie.
- Listen to them. Let them express their feelings--good or bad--to you. Make eye contact, listen and speak with them on their level- both physically and cognitively.
- Let them see you have feelings too. Show them you are human.
- Give them a safe place to fall. Always be ready to give them a hug or just hold them.
- Ask them how or what made them feel loved today. When in doubt, point them to Christ.
I long for the days past when these difficult conversations were not necessary between us. We live in a fallen world. While we should use the wisdom bestowed on us in these situations, we should also not live in fear. Politics will rage on, but all of this leaves me feeling like Jesus has already left us with the eternal solution to our earthly problems.
Matthew 18:1-5 says, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives on such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
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