After horrifying events take place and dominate the news cycle, parents often find themselves in the position of having to explain difficult subjects to their children. Of course, these news stories — particularly school shootings — are incredibly difficult for the parents to deal with as well.
We spoke to psychologist Keith Klosterman, PhD, LMFT, LMHC about this. After the parents set their children’s minds at ease, they may still be dealing with incredible stress because they are worried about their own children’s safety.
“With the state of the world right now, these are legitimate concerns, and it’s really scary,” he says. “Of course, they’re worried about their kids. Their kids are their most important things in life.” But he adds, “I also think that at some point, you can cross that line into territory that isn’t very helpful for you. And yes, things are really scary right now, but you also have to focus on facts. The facts are that schools are aware of what’s going on. They’re putting precautions in place. They have security. You know, and I think you have to trust in that to a certain extent and to focus on that. Because otherwise, if you live your life that way, you’re going to be living in a constant state of fear. And what I’d say living that way is not healthy for the parent… and by extension, it’s not healthy for the kids.”
“If the parent isn’t doing well or if the parent is struggling with this, then the kids are going to pick up on that and it’s going to impact how they feel. And I think if it is really problematic, parents are really having a hard time, then my suggestion would be to get help.”
He continues: “There’s a famous psychologist or psychotherapist, Viktor Frankl, who was a concentration camp survivor who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning. In spite of being in a concentration camp, he was still able to find meaning in his life, whereas other people from the same circumstance, it just was completely — and understandably — devastating. They couldn’t go on. It’s about accepting the reality of your situation. And in spite of that [reality], figuring out: how do you continue to move forward in positive ways. What are the things, within your control, that you can do? These are really difficult questions. But I think in the moment when the emotion kicks in, it’s really hard to have that kind of clarity. I think lots of people are struggling, and I don’t know that there’s a great answer, but I think, again, the reality of our situation is we continue to move forward. And I think we have to be wise about the things that we can control and also be careful and safe.”
“Parents certainly don’t want to live their lives in fear. And you don’t want your child to grow up anxious and worried. Hopefully, we are learning better ways to protect schools and to protect kids. The other piece, I think, is that if people feel passionately and strongly about some of these things, they should consider getting involved in school boards and getting involved in what’s happening at school and having awareness. I think knowing how my child’s school would respond in these events is another way to empower yourself.”