From the desk of Trine Syverinsen, Educational and Therapeutic Consultant
The mass shootings in Norway last July and the more recent killings in Oakland are nothing but horrible. Being Norwegian, and having all of my family and many of my friends in Norway, it seemed even closer and more devastating, but most of my American friends have also been truly shocked.
How can one man cause so much pain, suffering, fear and death? And why, why, why would he target innocent, unarmed teenagers and young adults? There is this hope inside of me that, even inside the mind of a disturbed individual, there is a core of common decency or compassion, but that is of course not always true.
So, as we work through our grief and pain, and prepare to go on with our lives, the question is always what should we learn from this? What do we change to make sure this doesn’t happen again? How do we protect ourselves, and our kids? How do we make sure that they are safe?
And the truth is that we can’t.
In many ways, raising kids in particular, and just plain living in general, is a risk analysis game. The thing that happened at Utoya in Norway statistically is not likely to ever happen (again). We can send our kids away to camp every summer for the rest of our lives, and there is an almost zero chance that this will happen. But how do we address our fear of what is now proven Might Happen? The horrible things that will almost never happen to our kids are the ones that cause the most fear in us. Precisely because they are so horrible. The things that are more likely to happen do not have the same emotional response. This is completely understandable. Our stress level is set to respond differently to those 4 seconds when we think our child is lost in the department store than to a slight fever at night during cold season.
At Bodin we spend a lot of time talking to parents who are trying to sort out their feelings of fear and anxiety, and get help in assessing the real risk their teenagers face. Some parents might have a slightly higher level of anxiety than might seem necessary, based on the facts. Sometimes that is just because they know that something else is going on, or because they are so determined to not let their kids get into a situation that would be dangerous or damaging for their future. Other times parents come in here, fairly composed, and tell us stories of years and years of emotionally and physically exhausting battles to care for their children.
When to carry them, when to hold their hand, and when to let them ride their bike down the street. These are the dilemmas of parenthood. And sometimes we need help to figure it out. How do we allow ourselves to let our kids try and fail – without feeling that we are exposing them to dangerous situations? And how to do we manage our own emotions and fears?
I am still figuring it out as well.