Today it's Arapahoe High School. Last year it was Sandyhook. Before that it was Aurora. No matter where we live tragedy is a part of life. Learning how to deal with it and helping our children get through it are survival skills for our day and age. My heart goes out to all those affected by the shooting at Arapahoe High School.
originally published July 21, 2012
1156 Miles to Aurora - Dealing with Crisis and ADHD
There is no doubt that everyone is affected, sorrowed, unsettled by any event like this that occurs and then reoccurs over and over again as it is passed back and forth, turned upside down, torn apart, and put back together again hour after hour, day after day in news media in an attempt to understand it.
While my heart goes out to the family and friends who are suffering during any crisis like the one in Aurora, my concern has been the people that live in my house and the way I see tragedy intersect with the symptoms of their ADHD. We walk a fine line of balance in our house to begin with - always battling the tendency to obsess, hyper focus, over identify with a circumstance that is not really ours. A mind that can so vividly imagine wondrous worlds can also vividly imagine other people's pain and anguish. I see a great deal of compassion in my ADHDers and a heightened level of perception towards other people's emotions. We also battle anxiety and depression.
Combine this with a disaster and our carefully balanced scales tip rather quickly. The question then is what do we do to find balance when tragedy strikes and the world shrinks.
Resist the urge to immerse yourself in the tragedy. With news feeds running round the clock replaying over and over 911 tapes and footage of disasters we have to learn to turn it off. I am not saying that we remove ourselves from the world or ignore what is happening in it. I am saying learn to control how and when we take in information about disasters. We really don't need to watch the same information presented over and over again.
Today I told my children, especially the older ones. Step away from it. You can check on updated information but don't obsessively listen and watch the same feeds over and over. Set a limit to check several times during the day and stick to it.
I also told them to control how they get the information. Television media is designed to be captivating, to make us want to sit for hours with the sights and sounds pounding us. In a disaster I personally don't feel that is healthy. It lends itself to a sense of panic, making the world seem particularly dangerous. It feeds anxiety, dread, fear, depression, hopelessness, it tips the scales. Instead of watching for hours visit an internet news site for the latest information, they will have video clips and sound bites if you have to have them, get the information and get off.
As a parent it is our responsibility to regulate the media for our younger children. We have to resist the urge to keep trauma running in our living rooms over and over. That is hard to do, but they are depending on us to protect them and help them process situations like these. Having the events play over and over is like living them over and over. It is too much reality.
There is a natural tendency when these things happen to try and make sense of it. To find a tangible reason for a senseless tragedy, something to hang on to. We need understand that there is never a good reason for such acts of violence and trying to find one leads in never ending circles of unanswerable questions. Sometimes we need to be satisfied with the fact that there will never be a good answer to the question why.
Because our children will be asking themselves the same questions and wondering how they find that sense of safety and security that are momentarily lost in an event like this we need to help them process those feelings and questions. We have to be available to talk about the situation and work through the feelings that come up because of it.
For example, my oldest daughter read an account online that one of the victims had just texted her friend encouraging her to come to the theater for the show. Not long after that she was gone. I knew what my daughter was thinking, she was thinking that she had been talking to her best friend while her friend waited for the midnight showing. She was thinking about how she would feel if that was their last conversation. She needed to be able to talk about that connection she had made that turned this into a very real, very scary scenerio for her. A "it could have been me" moment. She needed to process it, talk about,work through it.
Every person as an individual will react differently to a crisis, don't judge your child's reaction. Look beyond it to see what is really troubling them so you can address it.
Reassure our children that measures will be taken to try and prevent this sort of thing from happening again. My family went to see a movie tonight. We are a family in love with movies, we love watching them, we love making them. For our family this was sucker punch to the core of what makes us, us. Even though more than one of children were hesitant to go to a theater we made a point of going. We talked about how there would be added security and other measures to insure their safety. Because we talked about it they were very aware of the added security measures. They saw the changes and seeing those changes helped make the theater a safe place to be again.
Help your child feel like they can be a part of the solution. We live in an unpredictable world and while we cannot prevent tragedy from happening we can always figure out a way to help. Whether that is through the silent support of thoughts and prayers, sending get well or condolence cards, or helping to raise or donate money to a memorial fund. Taking action gives back a sense of control.
Life is fragile, sometimes it seems so fragile that we should stop living, we have to remind ourselves and our family members that we cannot stop living. That we need to push past that fear, not let it control us, drive us from participating in our world. In the face of disaster we can teach our children that courage is not the absence of fear, courage is the strength to keep going in the face of fear.
This is an important lesson to learn, our kids show courage everyday in battling their disorders, in facing the challenge that is their amazingly unique brains. That same courage can help them face down many challenges in life.
Aurora is not 1,156 miles away tonight - it is in my heart, in my family's heart. My husband has a great saying, love is what we have been through together. We will regain our equilibrium faster when we make a conscious effort to go through the events that shake out world together.