OLATHE, Kan. — Students, teachers and families of Olathe East High School are leaning on the support of each other and the community following Friday’s shooting.
Many are looking for answers on how to begin healing.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Gregory Nawalanic with the University of Kansas Health System says it may be tempting to stay glued to a phone and gobble up every bit of news, but it is important to allow space to fully process all emotions and move on.
“The point in time may come when you’re able to access the information, but while the emotions are still raw, it’s best to try and stay away. So let’s limit contact and information about the event,” Nawalanic said.
Healing can look different for people. No matter whether someone is a student, teacher or parent involved with Friday’s tragedy, Nawalanic says each would start by addressing their most basic human needs.
“Prioritizing good health, eating, trying to get rest whenever you can, however you can, exercising, getting outside,” he said.
The goal is to acknowledge feelings instead of avoiding them. Nawalanic says bottling up emotions can come out later in unhealthy ways. He suggests journaling thoughts or finding a healthy support system.
“It’s somebody who is not gonna just try to make you feel better. It’s somebody who can actually sit in these difficult feelings with you,” Nawalanic said.
Parents may feel a great sense of responsibility to be there for their kids, but Children’s Mercy Kansas City advises them to put on their own oxygen mask first.
- Start by processing one's own emotions. This will make space to hear children’s concerns.
- Then ask questions before giving answers. Correct misinformation, keep it brief and be honest.
- Limit exposure to media and reassure them that there is still good in the world.
“It’s important to make sure that you’re monitoring your kids and looking for any variance from their baseline,” Nawalanic said.
Nawalanic encourages students to stay connected and united during this difficult time.
“They can try to get involved and maybe organize some group discussions, campus events, maybe engage in their spiritual community and just find ways to come together and connect rather than fracture,” he said. “We want to try to encourage them to put faith in the adults around and in each other.”
Healing can take days, weeks or even years.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network advises parents to seek professional help if their kids struggle to function in the aftermath.