I can't seem to think about much else these days. I am glued to every news report, the stories of unbelievable heroics, and details about who this young guy was and what drove him to commit this heinous act. It reawakens all my old fears and anxieties after 9/11 wondering now about the safety of malls or movies, and worry about going to big public places. I know that they are unfounded worries, but what can I say, I worry about my daughter, myself, my husband, my friends. I know from experience that my worry will fade, but things that flaunt the randomness of life throw me off. I am sure I am not alone in this place. But these events also make me think about other things as well that I think are important for parents of teens. So hear are these thoughts:
President Obama spoke of two teens girls last night. Excited friends off to a summer movie. When the gunman hit her friend Ally, Stephanie jumped into action, stemming the blood flow in Ally's neck, never letting go, even when she was hit. She loved her friend, and literally held onto her for dear life. They both lived to tell the story to the President. That's the thing about teens and their friends. There is so much love, so much loyalty. Sometimes that loyalty to friends makes parents uncomfortable. They feel excluded and shut out, and worry that the friends carry more influence with their teen then they do. There is room for everyone in your teen's life. Celebrate the friendships, the loyalty and the love your teen has with his/her besties. They may have to save their life sometime. It probably won't be a random attack by a gunman, but maybe that friend will stop them from getting into a car with a drunk driver, or counsel them against a relationship that is bad for them, and even advise them to be nicer to their parents. Friends can be pretty honest with each other. Get to know your teen's friends, they may be your first line of defense.
As a therapist, of course I can't stop thinking about the shooter. What motivated him? Where were his friends, his connections to reality? I often hear from parents that their teen has disconnected from the family, preferring the privacy of his/her room to hanging in the family room, or watching a movie or tv with you or his/her brothers and sisters. I don't know anything about this boy, so I will not speculate, but the word "loner" has been put out there. I just met with a couple today whose son goes to his room for hours on end. Mom chalked it up to being a teen and pretty much left him alone, until she found hidden in the couch of his room, pot, pipes and scales. He had been a busy guy up in that room alone. If you have a teen who is isolating, go ahead, open the door, take out the TV, the computer, the video games, and invite them to join the family. It could save their life!
And finally, and most importantly love and appreciate your teen for who they are right this minute, even if they have disappointed you, angered you, worried you, disrespected you, don't let them go. They need your attention, and your love, even when it doesn't seem like it.