The holidays are almost over and returning to school is on the minds of Manchester’s students and parents. This time is different; however, because thoughts of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown are still fresh and many aren’t sure how they feel about walking back into their schools. As a parent of two teenage boys, I find myself reflecting on what happened in Newtown versus the situation my own children face at school and how they are being protected while out of my care. I cannot allow the fear of what could happen to take control of my common sense but it’s not so simple for the kids. Now is the time to reassure your teens and discuss their feelings about returning to school before they actually walk back through those doors.
Speaking with my own kids, I found a pretty large difference in how they felt about the security in their schools. My middle son is a senior in high school and seemed relatively unconcerned about any incidents occurring now or later. He watched the constant media coverage of Newtown with a solemn face, saddened by the loss of those beautiful children and angered at the thought of another young person doing something so despicable. He had little to say though, just remarking on how mentally ill the shooter must have been to do that. My youngest teen; however, is a freshman in another high school and his reaction was much different. The more he saw on television, the more agitated and restless he became. I had to monitor how much of the coverage he saw and often would change the channel if he came into the room. It seems there is a large difference in how an eighteen year old can processes such tragic events compared to that of a fifteen year old.
There are several things an older child can do to help relieve the stress they may be feeling. http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=243&np=295&id=2252
v Talking – family, friends, counselors or anyone who feels safe.
v Sit and put things into perspective.
v Stay busy.
v Keep reminding yourself of all the good things there are in life.
v Just take each day as it comes and don’t dwell on the next.
v Try and make a difference, it makes you feel really good.
The most important thing parents can do during this difficult adjustment back to the school year is be supportive and let their teenagers know that they can talk about their feelings anytime. Just because there may not be any outward appearances of stress doesn’t mean this major event has not affected your child. Just as important is addressing any concerns you may have about sending your students back to school. Tension is easily felt and teens are great at picking up problems at home. Talk to school staff, friends, neighbors or anybody who will listen and support your concerns. Manchester may not be close to Newtown on the map but the effects of that horrific day are just as easily felt here. As a community of devoted parents, school staff and others, we will get through this together.