The tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, has left our OCSB parents in shock, many looking for answers: How could this have happened? Could this happen here in Ottawa, in our own school board?
As the news and media spread about the events and fallout, our parents are left to have difficult conversations with their children. Images of twenty-one crosses in front of Robb Elementary school in Texas mark a life lost. Tuesday’s horrible events have captured global attention as many try to explain the inexplicable.
In addition to these events, our city is recovering from major power outages and associated damages, the pandemic, a city occupation, and an ongoing military invasion in Ukraine. It seems that an unending sequence of events has left a toll on all our families across the OCSB community.
What you can do to help
As parents, we need to let children and youth talk through their feelings, reassure them they are safe and protected and help them gain perspective. We need to calmly bridge the information that they collect outside and integrate it at home. What is crucial is that we need to recognize acts of compassion in our community. We need to ensure safety for our children/youth. We also need to let children know that they, like us, are human and people make some mistakes as well.
Tips to help your children
- Supervise and be present! Do your best to reduce their exposure to coverage of the horrible events in Uvalde, Texas, on the news and through social media.
- Limit your exposure as well! Avoid discussing the details with other adults or listening to/watching media reports when children are present.
- Validate the child’s feelings! Let them know that you are there to help them understand and be emotionally present.
Tips to reassure us all and our students (safety in schools)
- In the days and weeks, it will be important to address, with age-appropriate language, clear safety measures in place at the OCSB (i.e., locked doors in schools, safety protocols, lockdown procedures, etc.).
- When your child expresses fear, adult caretakers (i.e., parents, guardians and educators) need to offer comfort and support that everything is safe both at home and school. Re-assure the message that we are a caring community while demonstrating examples of kindness and compassion.
- Avoid discussing the overwhelming details of the events with other adults or listening to/watching media reports when children are present (i.e., the shootings that occurred in Uvalde, Texas, are getting worse and worse, the lack of response and intervention, etc.). We need not catastrophize local events to empower events that have taken place.
- Younger children cannot process the complexities of crisis the same way as adolescents and young adults can.
- They often gauge how threatening an event is by adult reactions (i.e., if caregivers act frightened, young children will view it as scary).
- An appropriate response would be to validate a child’s feelings and let them know that several caring people are doing their best to address the situation.
Tips for us all
- Encourage limits on our students’ over-exposure to social media and minimize switching to other media details on various news sources (i.e., re-watching the events in Uvalde, Texas repeatedly on media loops).
- Focus on positive mental health and well-being avenues (i.e., do positive class activities, virtual field trips, etc) to distance ourselves from the negative information that is amplified through over discussions on the events that have occurred.
- Visit reputable sites such as School Mental Health Ontario for various resources and free services in our community through these more challenging times.
3 things you can do to take care of yourself
Take care of yourself – so you will have the energy to be there for your students. Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and what you are about to express or discuss in the classroom. Recognize that grief reactions can last a while, especially when tragic events persist such as the media exposure of the Uvalde, Texas shootings. Think of how all this has impacted our OCSB community. Here are 3 practical things you can to do care for yourself:
- Keep regular schedules and routines such as preferred activities and things that enhance your well-being. Remember to eat well, sleep, play, and exercise. Be mindful of your limits and engage in calming activities towards the end of the day.
- Practice positive ways of coping with frustration, sadness, fear, anger, and worry.
- Ask for help. You don’t have to face this experience alone or in isolation and/or deal with it later. Think of an upstream way of taking care of yourself by seeking EAP services.
- City of Ottawa respite centers opened on Tuesday for those who need electricity, water, food, and shelter.
- Please visit OPH’s Parenting in Ottawa mental health page for information about the child and or youth mental health agencies.
- If you have a youth in crisis, contact the Youth Services 24/7 Crisis Line (24 hours a day/7 days a week) at 613-260-2360; if outside Ottawa, toll-free, 1-877-377-7775.
- About Kids Health: Mental Health Learning Hub
- Anxiety Canada
- School of Mental Health: Parents and Families Resources
Community resources and supports
For services and support available to help, please reach out to the following community resources or contact your school administrator.
- For more information on taking care of your mental health and that of your families, please visit the Ottawa Public Health website.
- 1Call1Click is a simple way to access mental health support for children, youth and families
- Counselling Connect free video or phone counselling sessions for children, youth and families
- Parents Lifeline of Eastern Ontario Family peer support services 613-321-3211
- Distress Centre Crisis Line (24/7) 613-238-3311 in English and Tel-Aide Outaouais 613-741-6433 in French
- YSB Crisis Line 613-260-2360 or online chat.
- Hope for Wellness Helpline: Available for all Indigenous peoples across Canada, offers experienced and culturally competent counsellors at 1-855-242-3310 or online chat. Phone counselling is also available in Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut.
- Kids Help Phone: Provides non-judgmental, inclusive services available to young people across Canada 24/7. 1-800-668-6868 or online chat.
- Black Youth Helpline 1-833-294-8650