Coping After Parkland

Dr. Patty Shutt

Here we are again. Parents and their children are left struggling with difficult emotions and traumatic memories after the most recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Even if you weren’t directly impacted, you may find that emotions are running high within your household.   Anxiety, fear, sadness, uncertainty, and helplessness are all common reactions to a traumatic event. Children may have many questions about the recent tragedy – questions that can be uncomfortable and difficult for parents to answer. Moreover, children already predisposed to anxiety and depression are especially vulnerable. As a parent, here are some things you can do to help you child cope effectively:

  • Listen and allow your child to react in an authentic way. Be honest with your children and answer their questions with as much information as you are able to provide, using developmentally appropriate practices.
  • Take a news and social media break. Minimize and supervise your child’s access to media coverage. For younger children, this can be as simple as turning off the television. For adolescents, monitor their exposure and set limits on social media.
  • As much as possible, keep normal routines in place.
  • Participate in community events such as community vigils, fundraising efforts, social action projects, or faith-based activities.
  • Focus on the positive. Point out random acts of kindness and good deeds. Reminisce about a happy moment.
  • Pay attention to worsening anxiety or depression. If your child has trouble sleeping, eating, or concentrating, it may be time to reach out for professional help. Make an appointment with a therapist, or consult with your pediatrician regarding referrals to a professional. School counselors and religious leader also may be able to help.

It is especially important for parents and adults to deal with their own stress levels regarding the traumatic event. Take time to process the event appropriately and remember to model reassuring behavior for your children. Navigating tragedies effectively now will help build your child’s resiliency to future setbacks and tragedies.

If you need support or counseling during this difficult time, please reach out to Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches at 561-278-6033 or admin@delrayoasis.com.

Patricia Shutt, Psy.D., CEDS, is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and a co-founder of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach. In addition to private therapy, Dr. Shutt also facilitates group therapy, teaches meditation, facilitates an 8-week course on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and moderates specialized workshops and trainings.

Sources cited:
http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/news/help-kids-feel-safe.html
https://www.schoolcounselor.org/school-counselors/professional-development/learn-more/shooting-resources

Students Receive Tips on Fueling Their Creative Selves

Students in grades 3-12 gathered in West Palm Beach on Saturday, October 24, participating in the year-round enrichment programs offered through the Kravis Center.   Underwritten by the Lawrence J. and Florence A. De George Charitable Trust, the De George Academy for Performing Arts provides instruction and coaching to economically disadvantaged youth interested in the performing arts.  Through these ongoing programs, students learn necessary tools and strategies that enrich their creative lives.

Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD, understands how good nutrition helps students achieve goals.  Christie’s presentation, “Fueling Your Creative Self: Simple Strategies for Super Students”, emphasized the connection between regular, balanced meals fueling creative endeavors.  Children eagerly listened on as Christie shared important tips that included:

  • Always eat breakfast!
  • Don’t skip meals. 
  • • Have grains, protein, and color at all meals.
  • • Eat when you’re hungry, stop when just right.
  • • Have Growing Foods (whole grains, fruits & veggies, dairy, nuts, protein) for a sharp brain & body, and include Sometimes Foods (candy, desserts, sweets)
  • Enjoy your food and let creativity shine!

Wishing the best to these budding super stars!

Introducing CALM: Stress Reduction & Mindfulness for Teens

Shutt Fav Headshot (1)Modern life has many amenitites that simplify and automate our lives; however, daily demands continue to grow rapidly.  Technological advances streamline tasks while simultaneously keep us connected to social media, news, and email.  We have at our fingertips the ability to reap the benefits of a less stressful lifestyle, but we often pursue the path of more rather than less.  Besides the obvious negative impact on our own health, modeling this more and more lifestyle has consquenses for our children as well.  (Don’t worry! Nonjudgment…I’ve made many of these choices too.) Recognizing stress motivates us parents to incorporate stress reduction practices into our own lives.  How do we then identify and incorporate stress reduction into the lives of our children?

Some stress is part of everday living.  In teenagers, many stressful life expereinces are often part of the norm.  Mild stress can be helpful to motivate one to complete difficult taks and reach important goals.  However, excessive and/or chronic stress in teens may result in a downward spiral of emotional and physical problems.  Common signs of stress in teens include:

Difficulty sleeping

Changes in appetite (too much or too little)

Excessive worry thoughts

Avoidance of social situations and activities

Frequent illness

Headaches and stomachaches

Extreme anger or sadness (reacts or overreacts)

Substance abuse

Parents who have identified stress related symptoms, anxiety, or depression in their child or adolescent might have already sought psychotherapy treatment. In addition to therapy, research has demonstrated that mindfulness is an effective tool for reducing stress, offering teens a way out of suffering and reducing risk to complications that arise from untreated anxiety and depression (including dropping out of school, addiction, and suicide).  Mindfulness can also help with the everyday challenges of being a teen, such as college testing and applications, homework, extracurricular activities and social relationships.  Offering teens an alternative way of building stress resiliency before they breakdown can be an excellent preventative medicine tool.  Some tips to incorporate mindfulness into your teen’s life include:

1. Disconnect!  Even if it is only for 20 minutes, remind your teen that downtime is important.  Turn off the technology and focus on breathing.  Breathe in a full breath (fuller than usual) and very slowly exhale, feeling the sensations of letting go.  With each exhale, there is a softening of the body.  Repeat.

2. Naming. When you are stressed, take time to pause, identify and name your emotions and thoughts.  Ask yourself, “Is this really true?”  Check the facts and see if there are any exaggeration of thoughts or catastrophic beliefs.  What can you realistically do about it now?  If nothing else, practice letting go.  Reframe by thinking, “I am feeling stressed about _____ and I intend to do _______ about it, or I am going to let this go for now.

3. If your mind is racing and overwhelmed with too many thoughts, STOP.  Stop everying.  Take a deep breath, Observe your breath, Proceed mindfully with just one thought.

Utilizing these easy tools now will provide teens with a lifetime of healthy coping mechanisms.  To advance your teen’s mindfulness knowledge even further, learn more about CALM: Teen Mindfulness Workshop at Sacred Treehouse.  This workshop will teach teens techniques to help cultivate acceptance and live mindfully.  Classes will include gentle yoga and stretching, mindful meditation, group discussion, and self-reflection activities. 

Wishing you and your children health, joy, and peace. 

– Dr. Patty Shutt

CALM: Teen Mindfulness Workshop will begin on Saturday, October 24th, 3:30-5:00 p.m.  For more information, please call 561-278-6033.