Trigger Warning: This article mentions school shootings. This article was written by a Nivati counselor who specializes in trauma and grief. Please call 911 in case of an emergency, and reach out to your counselor or a hotline like SAMHSA for mental health support.
As a parent, sending kids off to school can be very anxiety-provoking just because of the mere thought that “no one can care for your child the way you do”. Seeing the increase in gun violence and school shootings can cause anxiety levels to heighten even more. Parents, if you are having difficulty feeling comfortable sending your child to school, you are not alone.
According to Education Week, there have been 119 school shootings since 2018 and 27 school shootings for this year, 2022. As of May 2022, the most recent school shootings occurred in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and 2 adults were killed, and 16 were left injured at Robb Elementary School. This is one of the deadliest since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 26 dead. Now you may be wondering, how do I cope with feeling safe sending my child to school?
How to Cope With Stress Around Sending Your Child to School
1. Talk to your child and school admin about safety
First, be involved with your child and the school. This is a scary topic to discuss with your child, but you want to ensure they understand the severity of school shootings. You want to educate them on what can happen and how to take precautionary measures if something like this happens.
Have open conversations with your child about what goes on at school. No one can better educate you on what is happening in the school than your child. Also, reach out to your child’s school and find out what safety measures they are taking to ensure that your child is safe at school. Most schools do have safety plans and implement them with students. I remember when I was in school, my schools from K-12th grade had monthly or random shelter drills to teach us what routes we can take to exit the school in case of an emergency or how to protect ourselves if we couldn’t exit the school. Looking back on it, it was pretty beneficial because it taught me all of the exits I didn’t know about as well as how to hide and make sure the main body parts of mine are covered such as my head and torso area.
2. Acknowledge how you’re feeling
Next, focus on how you’re feeling. It is okay to feel nervous or uneasy about sending your child to school knowing that something like this could happen. Keep in mind that your feelings are valid. However, you also want to think about what’s best for your child and the positives of sending your child to school. Try using a technique called positive self-talk.
Positive self-talk can be defined as positive thoughts that you tell yourself versus negative self-talk which is the complete opposite. These are negative thoughts that you tell yourself, such as “I am not good enough.”. People find it hard to have positive self-talk because it is very easy to focus more on negative thoughts as humans, we tend to focus a lot more on what we fear to try to keep ourselves safe. However, try to stick to thinking about the positive. This is because this is a situation that cannot be controlled or changed. Similar to natural disasters, this is something we can be prepared for but cannot stop from happening.
Some positive self-talk points to think about could be:
- The friendships your child has made at school
- The exposure your child gets with other kids (other cultures, races, nationalities, etc.)
- The relationship between your child and their teachers
- The education your child has received thus far that they haven’t been able to get at home
- The new song your child learned at school
- The exciting events your child can only get at school (i.e. book fairs, field trips, recess, prom, graduation)
- The extracurricular activities your child participates in
- Child care while you’re at work
3. Talk about how you’re feeling
Also, talk about how you are feeling and share your thoughts. If you’re in therapy, talk it out with your therapist. If not, talk to the people around you such as your spouse, partner, family, or friends.
Talking about how you feel can be very beneficial because it allows you to get things off your chest rather than dwelling on it. Talking about it can lift a huge weight off of your shoulders, bringing you to a much calmer state of mind. In the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) technique, radical acceptance, it teaches us that we have to accept reality as it is. Meaning, we have to accept or talk about what is happening and our feelings about it. Feelings in themselves are not a bad thing. We have to accept it for what it is, whether we like it or not, because ignoring a feeling does not make it go away. According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, “talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s part of taking charge of your well-being and doing what you can to stay healthy”.
4. Prioritize your mental health and self-care
Lastly, take care of your mental health. Make sure you are not overwhelming yourself thinking about the possibilities of what could happen. Having worry or concern is fine, however, too much of this can affect your wellbeing. After a school shooting incident occurs, it is okay to stay informed with the news and media surrounding it, however, just know when it is time to turn it off. It can help to limit the amount of time you spend reading the news each day.
Try indulging yourself in some calming techniques at least once a day. This can include things such as meditation, yoga, reading, listening to music, or even surrounding yourself with nature. Also, make sure you are taking care of your physical health. Studies have shown how mood can be affected positively just by having a healthy eating routine, exercising, and getting enough sleep. And try to incorporate fun activities you enjoy at least once a week just to take your mind off things for some time. Think things like participating in sports, shopping, or exploring somewhere new and spending this time with your loved ones.
Remember, at the end of the day you’re doing the best for your child and their wellbeing.
For more information on this topic check out the following blog post: Why Talking About Mental Health at Work Should Be Okay
Learn About the Power of Self-Care
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