HOUSTON – For students and parents in Santa Fe, every day since the shooting has been an emotional battle. Even small tasks, like going to the school to get backpacks, have a heightened sense of anxiety.
Trauma counselors said there is no wrong way to react after a tragedy, but some say the healthiest way to move forward is to at least try going through the motion of normal activities.
“One of the things that might be helpful is you can take your kid to school and walk in with them," said Christine Reed, a licensed clinical social worker. "You could have a group of friends that get together and they all get ready and go together and walk in together. So, there's strength in numbers sometimes."
A crisis hotline has been set up for the distress calls from students and parents. It can be reached anytime at 800-595-0869. People can also text "talkwithme" to 66746 or visit TheHarrisCenter.org.
Jennifer Battle, of the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, is one of the people answering calls. She said the majority of calls to the crisis line are simply people looking for answers: when to get belongings, what day classes begin and how to return to school.
“Folks who are scared, parents who don't know what to say to their kids, parents whose kids have lost their friends," Battle said, as she described the types of calls she has answered. "They're struggling with their own fears and anxieties about sending their kids back to school. So there's a lot of, a lot of tragedy, a lot of trauma and a lot of hurt."
The main message from the Harris Center for Mental Health is that all feelings of grief are normal and subject to change among different people. She said it will not be unusual for students and parents to have anxiety about returning to class, or they may not.
“It's also OK for kids not to feel hesitant for wanting to get back to what they might consider some sense of .. the new normal,” Battle said.
If you or your child begin to panic or just have unanswered questions about returning to class, Battle suggested calling the hotline.
Battle said they often share the following resources with people who make the call:
Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting: Gives advice on how to identify and cope with grief and anxiety after a mass shooting. More info
Tips for parents on media coverage: Gives information to parents and caregivers about media coverage following a disaster event. This tip sheet describes what parents can do to help their children, media exposure after events, and talks about what it is like when a family is a part of the story. More info
Parent guidelines for helping youth: Offers parents guidance on helping their children after a shooting. This fact sheet describes common reactions children may have, how parents can help them, and self-care tips after an event. More info
Talking to children about the shooting: Provides information on how to talk to children about mass shootings. This tip sheet describes ways to talk to children about mass violence events that involve a shooting. It gives tips on how to start the conversation, common reactions children may have, and how to seek help if needed. More info
Helping teens with traumatic grief: Describes how teens may feel when struggling with the death of someone close and offers tips on what caregivers can do to help. More info
Responding to violence and tragedy: Created by Scholastic editors in consultation with educators and experts nationwide, these resources include advice about how to talk to students and reassure them after tragedies. It also includes information about organizations like Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit group that has developed programs to help stop school violence. More info
Calming fears and frustrations in the wake of tragedy: Blog aimed specifically at teachers on how to support kids in the classroom. More info