Learning to Trust Again
After a tragedy like a school shooting, you may be wary about sending your kids into the world without you, even if it's just dropping them off for a play date at a friend's house. Dr. Lipkins offers advice on how to broach the subject of whether other parents keep guns in the home:
"It is the kind of question most people would not ask. However, if you are concerned and while you're setting up the play date, you can lightly say something like, ‘My family is a bit anxious after what happened in Connecticut, and I want to make sure our children are safe. Are you by chance a collector of guns?’
"If they say yes, then ask, ‘How do you deal with that with your children?’
"In that discussion, find out where they keep them and how they keep them and their thoughts about it. I don't know that this is an appropriate question, but in light of what happened, I think you can ask. It’s less about the presence of guns and more about the parents being comfortable with the level of supervision happening in the house."
Getting Emotional Support
Optum, a health services company, is offering a free emotional support help line for people affected by the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The help line will provide affected individuals with access to specially trained mental health specialists. The toll-free help line number, 866-342-6892, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as necessary. Emotional support resources and information are also available online at liveandworkwell.com.
How to Offer Help
Many of us feel a strong urge to help the families affected by the tragedy, but it's diffucult to know how to do so in an appropriate way. Here, Natascha Santos, Psy.D., a New York State-certified bilingual school psychologist based on Long Island, offers advice on how to offer help the right way:
"Just let them know that you’re available for anything, something little like spending time together, sitting with them, or picking up their mail. But don’t overwhelm them with a lot of information or questions. I would just offer condolences or words of sympathy. I wouldn’t go into specifics about what happened. I wouldn’t mention anything other than heartfelt words that you’re thinking of them, you’re praying for them. Make the focus positive, not negative.
"I think another good thing to do is for kids to write letters to the siblings of the children involved—the kids who lost their siblings. They're going to suffer quite a bit."
Honoring First Responders
"There are a lot of heroes in Newtown, from the teachers to people in the community to the first responders," says Thomas Demaria, PhD, director of the Psychological Services Center at Long Island University Post Campus and founder of the volunteer-run Trauma Response Team, which provides counseling to those affected by traumatic events. "And families can send letters, or pictures, or packages, but the thing to remember is that for the first couple of months after, the first responders are still working. They're still managing, investigating, making sure the families and children are safe.
"When the needs of others have been fully attended to, first responders appreciate that others appreciate their sacrifices. The acknowledgement is rewarding to the first responders and their own families. The other piece of that is it's good to give kids something to do. Having them draw pictures, or say thank you, is a way of coping."
How to Help Make the World a Better Place for Your Family in Small Ways
There are tons of opportunities in your neighborhood − both big and small — for you and your children to make a difference. Diane Lang, a psychotherapist, author, and positive living expert, provides 25 ways to help make the world a better place and encourages you to add to it or make your own list from scratch. Start by smiling, giving a hug, and telling your family and friends that you love them.