My name is Ellie Ander. I run Chicago North Shore Moms. My family and I were at the Highland Park Parade and this is what we went through.
We were seated just 50 feet away from where the shooting started. Unless you’ve been through it, and I hope you never ever have to, the fear is indescribable. 24 hours later, I’m still shaking and my heart is still pounding out of my chest. We heard incredibly loud rhythmic booms and it took about 2-3 seconds for the crowd to compute what was happening. Being 4th of July, the collective crowd thought it might be the fireworks. Then the panic, screaming and fleeing. We were fortunate enough to be seated in front of an open coffee shop. My husband and I grabbed our children and dog and shoved them through the door and ran as fast as we could through the building and out the back door. We all huddled behind the brick building sandwiched in between parked cars. We stayed there for 45 minutes in total fear of not know what was going on. We finally got the clear to head home on foot. Our car is still downtown, we cannot retrieve it yet as this is still an active investigation. My family will need to heal from this. We will therapy and loads of distraction and normalcy to life as much as we can. We were the lucky ones. We did not get hit by bullets, our friends and family are all safe and we did not witness the bloodshed.
This tragedy affects not just the parade goers, not just the residents of Highland Park, not just the North Shore, but it also affects anyone else living in this country. This gunman had access to a rifle with high-velocity rounds similar to an AR-15. This is a weapon of mass destruction. Within one minute 80 bullets tore into dozens, killing seven. And leaving a local eight year old still fighting for his life. This is not freedom. We are all encapsulated in fear. And we will fight. Fight for common sense gun laws. There is no excuse, NO EXCUSE, that Americans should continue to endure these senseless acts. This is a gun problem. PERIOD.
The document below has helped me and my family. To my North Shore friends, I’m here to help.
Thank you to Dr. Aliyeva at Plena Mind Center, a pediatric partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs. Website www.plenamind.com or 847.562.5612.
Children who witnessed or experienced traumatic events may experience a broad range of early reactions (e.g., physical, cognitive, psychological, behavioral, spiritual). Some of these reactions can cause distress that interferes with adaptive coping. Children are particularly vulnerable to trauma and may uniquely suffer from its effects because of their developing ability to understand and process what has happened. For children, safety and security are very important.
There’s no one way to address tragedies with children, and how parents approach it depends both on the child’s age, maturity and temperament.
There are different stages of childhood development and children’s understanding of complex issues, ideas and the world around them is different from stage to stage.
Unlike children, adults have the capacity to process their emotions and thoughts about what has happened. They too may have difficulty making sense of things, but they do have the ability to rebuild and create new meaning in their lives. Children need the help of adults to do the same. Assure your children you are doing all you can to keep them safe and secure. Let them know that’s your job as their parent.
Preschool-kindergarten: Try to focus on the positives, such as the heroes of the story. One-sentence story.
Elementary school children: parents should prevent their children from seeing pictures or the news because the images will stick with children longer than words. If children do see pictures, she recommended that parents show their children positive photos to counteract the negative.
Tweens: Listen to their feelings, have conversation about their values and your values that do not focus on the particular event but more on the person you are raising.
Teens: Look for solutions. parents still need to listen to their teens’ feelings and display empathy
Be present and listen.
Turn off the phones, tablets and the television. Ongoing exposure to world events can feel overwhelming to children and teens. When you reduce screen time, you give you and your children a chance to interact with one another. This might give you a chance to talk with your child about concerns they may have. By listening to them, your children feel validated and cared for and you stay informed about the things that concern them.
Give simple, honest answers to questions.
Use age-appropriate language when talking with your children. Younger children don’t need long answers with lots of details. You might be surprised how a short, pointed answer will do the trick. With teens, however, their ability to think more abstractly may bring them to ask more difficult questions about how gun violence touches society politically, socially and morally. Take the opportunity to sit and listen. Like adults, children and teens are better able to cope with a difficult situation when they have the facts about it.
Watch for signs and symptoms of trauma.
Children do hear and see stories about gun violence. They may have a friend or classmate who was impacted by gun violence, or a shooting may have occurred in your community or within your family. Some youth reside and go to school in areas where violence is a regular occurrence and they are more at risk for trauma and its psychological effects. Whether it’s close to home or something they hear on the news, ongoing exposure to gun violence can take its toll on your child. Watch for the signs and symptoms of trauma. Talk to your child to see if what you are seeing is connected with a recent shooting incident and consider counseling for your child.
Create a safe environment for them.
Everyone needs to feel safe and secure in order to live fully and thrive. The constant threat of gun violence can disturb any sense of safety your child might have. Let your children know you are there for them and you are making sure to let them know you are doing everything you can to keep them safe. Teens also need this reassurance. Maintain a regular routine as much as possible as well as expectation around chores, schoolwork and other rules of the house. Routines create a sense of safety and stability.
Take time for yourself and honor your feelings.
The news of gun violence, or your experience of gun violence can cause trauma to you. In order to help your children, you’ll need to also make certain you are taking care of yourself. Self-care practices are also a great way to model resiliency and positive coping for your children. Eating well, staying active, getting rest and doing things you enjoy are all ways of practicing self-care.
Signs and symptoms of trauma
Children are traumatized by what they hear and see, they may show the signs and symptoms of trauma, which include:
- Increased thoughts and discussion about death
- Increased concern for a parent’s safety, or the safety of siblings or friends
- Problems with eating or sleeping
- Difficulty focusing in school or acting out during class
- Problems finishing homework
- Difficulty separating from parents
- Avoiding school or activities they usually love
- Expressions of fear or anxiety
- Defiance at home or school
- Changes in friendships or other significant relationships
American Academy or Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Dr. Deborah Gilboa, Parenting and Youth Development Expert
Family Service of Lake County Counseling
777 Central Ave., Suite 117
Highland Park, IL 60035
(847) 432-4981 x103 (English & Spanish)
Locations in Lake Forest, Northbrook and Kenilworth
Dr. Erica Wagner-Heimann, Psy.D & Dr. Andrea Barmish Mazza Ph.D.
The Center for Anxiety and OCD
The JCFS Chicago Warm Line phone connection is available to provide assistance for anyone affected by the Highland Park shooting who does not have an urgent need and is looking for someone to talk to about their emotional distress. Call the warm line to connect to an emotional support professional between 9am and 5pm Monday through Thursday, 9am-4pm Fridays at 855.275.5237
Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event
Common sense gun control actions are included in the Moms Demand Action App
Text READY to 644-33
Seasons Within LLC art therapy for children
Nikki Evans PLLC specializing in trauma
Coalition to Support Grieving Students
The Balance Project for therapy funds
NorthShore Crisis Intervention Services