More than 1,600 miles separate Ulvade, Texas from the Fredericksburg community. But that distance seems insignificant following the tragic shooting Tuesday morning at Robb Elementary School. The mental health impacts for local residents could be dramatic.
Continual access to news and social media means that national news feels close to home. And families will feel the stress of easing children’s concerns about school safety.
“We know that everyone responds differently to tragedies,” said Jacque Kobuchi, clinical services director at Rappahannock Area Community Services Board. “It’s important to maintain connections, to check in with friends and family, and to look for signs that someone is struggling.”
Tips for Coping
RACSB’s clinicians offer these tips for coping:
• Limit the time spent engaging with news.
• Pay attention to “doomscrolling,” which is constantly scrolling social media feeds looking for negative news. If you find yourself doing this, make a conscious effort to put down your digital devices.
• Focus on the self-care habits that help you, whether that is exercise, journaling, art, etc.
• Stick to the basics: Make sure you are getting enough sleep and water, eat healthy foods and move your body.
• Connect with loved ones who will help you maintain a healthy outlook.
• Take positive steps—if the news makes you feel helpless, focus on the things you can do like giving blood, donating to a charity, volunteering or spreading accurate information.
• Seek help if you need it. If you’re struggling to maintain your daily activities or if your anxiety or depression is increasing, seek mental health treatment. RACSB’s emergency services are always available or you can find a local therapist with Mental Health America of Fredericksburg’s online provider list.
Tips for Caregivers
News of school shootings can also impact the wellbeing of children. Many parents might be tempted to shield their children from the news and hope for the best.
“These conversations can be complex but they are crucial,” Kobuchi said. “Children may not be watching the news or scrolling Twitter feeds but they can sense the anxiety from the grownups in their lives. And they often hear bits and pieces of the news. When parents address the situation and allow kids to express their feelings, it provides helpful coping tools.”
Some tips for parents include:
• Check in with your children. Ask open-ended questions that allow them to explore their feelings.
• Tailor the conversation to the developmental age of your child. The National Association of School Psychologists and Common Sense Media offer age-based tip sheets for caregivers.
• Reassure children that they are safe. Review the school safety procedures and offer perspective about the overall safety of schools.
• Be available for reassurance and conversation.
• Keep routines as normal as possible.
• Limit exposure to the news.
• Find concrete ways that children can help, whether they donate to fundraisers, make cards for students affected by the shooting or volunteer in their community.
• Ask for outside help when needed, whether that is from the school, the pediatrician’s office or from a therapist.
Please know that emergency services are always available, including specialized crisis treatment for children. RACSB emergency services therapists are available around the clock, 540/373-6876.