It’s not even been two weeks since the tragedy in Highland Park took place and the community is doing its best to heal. I asked my friend Lauren Schifferdecker (pictured below), MA, LCPC, owner and founder of Inspire Counseling Center, if she had any tips for how to process events like this one. Lauren had a number of ideas geared at the whole family. Here’s what she suggested:
- Start with yourself. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed when we see our kids or spouses scared or upset. We often forget about ourselves. When we do that, we unintentionally bury our own feelings. Take some time to take some deep breaths, journal, read something inspiring. Even if you don’t have a lot of time, you can ground yourself by noticing things around you. One easy grounding tool is to name and describe the things you can see around you in as much detail as you can. This simple technique helps reset your brain and manage big emotions. Even better? Name your feelings, if even just to yourself. Just by saying your feelings out loud (e.g., “I’m scared. I’m sad. I’m mad.”) it will help the circuitry in your brain to reduce your feelings and engage logic.
- Help your kids name their feelings. Want to know something cool? If you help your kids name their feelings, it helps their brains shift to logic and helps calm them down as they start to make sense to themselves. “You seem sad.” or “Are you scared?” etc. any of these will help, even if it doesn’t seem like it. You are litterally helping them regulate their feelings. If they correct you, then just ask more. For example, they say “I’m not sad!” You can say, “Oh I get it. I didn’t understand. What do you think you are feeling–mad, upset, confused, hurt?” Then thank them for sharing with you, because their feelings are so important, and tell them you are a safe place if they’d like to tell you more at any time.
- Be honest (but positive-focused) with your kids. If your kids ask about a shooter, or the people killed or hurt, be honest, but positive. Yes, there was someone who wanted to hurt people. But, there were hundreds and thousands of people who have come to help, support during the event and afterwards–police, firemen, doctors, nurses and so many people in this community have come together for good. We’ve seen so much love, support, connection and generosity from so many people.
- Choose to believe in hope and love. Don’t let fear control you. This applies to you and your whole family. Remember good things and bad things happen every single day. What we focus on and what we give attention will impact the way we experience the world. If you put on pink glasses, the whole world looks pink. If we look for good, beauty and love — you will see it is all around you in abundance. Worrying and fear do not protect you from life. In fact, they steal from your life and joy.
- Give bad feelings an action. When we (or our family) feels overwhelmed with sadness, grief, trauma, one great way to fight back is to put those strong feelings to work. If worry or anxiety is your main feeling, make a plan for what you would do to protect yourself in a situation. Make a family plan. Or, look for ways to change the world, simply by spreading joy and goodness. You can write a story or poem, get involved and raise money in a lemonade stand, sell artwork, volunteer for a cause to help improve the world. You can also look for small ways to show random acts of kindness, which could be as simple as calling or texting someone who might be lonely, or that you haven’t talked to in a while. When we use the energy of big feelings for action–it is one of the strongest motivators out there. When we avoid our daily routines, or things we enjoy because of fear, we are giving it power over us.
I’m so grateful to Lauren to sharing her expertise with us. She has three centers with certified couselors available to help those at this difficult time. She recently opened an Inspire Counseling Center in downtown Lake Forest, in addition to the beautiful centers she has in Kenilworth and Northbrook. Click here to learn more about how you can get in touch with them.
I hope this is helpful.