It’s okay to be wrong—and it’s important to let others know.
That’s the message mental health and school experts have for parents, students, teachers, staff, community members — anyone and everyone — affected by Monday morning’s shooting at Visual and Performing Arts High School.
“Parents can explain the situation, ask their students how they feel about it – and it’s important to really listen to them, make sure they know they’re being heard and that the adults understand what they’re dealing with.” ” said Eric Sparks, deputy executive director of the National American School Counselor Association.
Experts encouraged parents to acknowledge their own emotions. Instead of suppressing their feelings about the tragedy, they should model healthy ways of working through it, like taking care of their mental health.
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If you’re experiencing behavior that isn’t typical of you, such as insomnia or loss of appetite—or you notice it in someone else, it’s a signal to seek help.
Behavioral Health Response’s 24/7/365 Crisis Line and Youth Connection Helpline offers a clinician toll-free, call 988, 314-469-6644 or 314-819-8802 (youth). Youth can also chat online at www.bhrstl.com or text BHEARD to 31658.
It’s natural for people who care for children to tend to calm and soothe them, which is a good thing, said Dr. Ken Haller, a professor of pediatrics at St. Louis University School of Medicine and a pediatrician at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon.
“But it’s important for us to even let the kids know that we’re scared, we’re angry, we’re sad,” Haller said. “Sometimes when we comfort children it can come across as ‘Don’t feel bad.’
In times of tragedy, Haller said, it’s “normal, natural and healthy” to feel bad. The main message of parents to their children should be: I will be there for you.
Parents can watch for signs of depression, such as nightmares, changes in eating habits, social isolation, or other underlying behavioral changes.
Some children and adults may feel motivated to take action, Haller said. For children and caregivers, that can mean engaging in advocacy around school and gun safety. For teachers and students, this may mean making cards for people affected by the incident at school.
“You don’t want to come across as a parent who doesn’t mind,” said Jameka Woody-Cooper, program director of applied educational psychology and school psychology at Webster University.
Younger children are more prone to catastrophizing, she said.
“They don’t have a good idea of what’s likely,” Woody-Cooper said.
Sparks said it’s important, especially for students, to maintain a routine.
“It will take time,” he said. “And sometimes it will look worse, feel worse, after the initial adrenaline wears off.” “Returning to a normal routine will be difficult for everyone.”