How to navigate children’s mental health after the Oxford High School shooting

How do you best support the children in your life following these tragic events?
How to navigate children’s mental health after the Oxford High School shooting
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 10:20 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2021 at 11:13 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The events at Oxford High School has brought up a lot of emotions for everyone.

Especially children who are returning to the classroom after so many schools were closed.

Related: How parents can talk to kids about the Oxford High School shooting

For many children and teenagers, it can feel like a whirlwind of stress and anxiety.

With schools across Michigan shutting down and others being put on lockdown due to threats, it can weigh heavily on youngsters. Mental health experts said it’s all about keeping an open dialogue and boundaries.

“Grief is unique to everyone. Everyone grieves differently,” said Kristine Kuhnert. “What may have been your experience can be very different from someone else.”

Kuhnert, with Ele’s Place, said parents and loved ones need to be there for their children during this tough time, but knowing how to help can be the hardest part.

“Do you want to talk about it? Would you like to talk to someone else about it? Really trust your intuition when you’re dealing with the kiddos,” Kuhnert said. “They have a tough time understanding the many emotions they’re going through, but you know, have a conversation.”

“Our children and young people are hearing the news, are hearing the conversations that we’re having as their supportive grown-ups, they want want to be a part of those conversations,” said Jennifer Cronkite. “That will help them manage their own grief and trauma as well.”

Cronkite is a therapist with Community Mental Heath. She said children and teenagers should always be “looking for the helpers,” as famously coined by Mr. Rogers. Whether it’s a coach, a teacher, a parent or friend, everyone can help by acknowledging somebody who seems unhappy.

One of the things which can help the most is giving them control over something in a world where everything seems out of control.

“Would you like some quiet time to snuggle up and read a book on the couch? Would you like to help me pick out the menu for dinner tonight? So, there’s something active you feel like you’re doing -- giving them choices, giving them something which they do have control, even if they feel like they’re just day-to-day decisions,” Cronkite said.

This advice comes at a tricky time -- the holidays. Kuhnert said the holidays can be a tough time for everyone and to respect other’s boundaries regarding grief.

“If you know someone who is hurting and you invite them over and at the last minute they say no, it’s not you. It’s they need to take care of themselves,” Kuhnert said. “To the person who is grieving or dealing with issues, remember to set your boundaries. It’s OK to say no and it’s OK to not be at everything.”

If your child is being emotionally impacted for any reason, but may not feel comfortable speaking with an adult, Ele’s Place in Lansing offers a group environment where they can speak to other children who are going through similar situations.

For more information, visit Ele’s Place’s official website here.

Copyright 2021 WILX. All rights reserved.

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