Am I Enabling My Child by Helping Them?

Am I Enabling My Child by Helping Them?

If your son or daughter is using drugs and alcohol, you may have been told that certain things you do for them are “enabling.” Meanwhile, all you really want to do is help them. It can be confusing how to respond to your child’s behavior.

In this short video, Master Addictions Counselor Mary Ann Badenoch, LPC offers a reframing of the idea of enabling – one that focuses on setting limits, encouraging healthy behaviors and ignoring unwanted ones. “It’s okay to do something nice for your child,” she explains. “After all, you love them and want to stay connected with them.”

source: Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

How Do You “Go On” After Such Tragedy?

How Do You “Go On” After Such Tragedy?

Kelly Carneal Firesheets survived the Dec. 1, 1997 shooting at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky. She lives in Mount Lookout.

To my neighbors in Marshall County, Kentucky:

It is with great sadness that I welcome you to the club of survivors.

Yesterday, you were victims. Or witnesses. Or “the community.” When the sun came up this morning and you took a breath, you became one of us.

We are the survivors. When you are a survivor, every breath you take is an act of defiance: Defiance of fear, anger, death, isolation, and loneliness. Breathe that defiance into your lungs and know that you are in good company — there are a lot of us out here.

Each survivor has her own story, and each is infinitely complex. No one can really capture the web of connections that make these tragedies so painful complicated and confusing for those of us who live them.

I became a survivor on December 2, 1997, the day after my younger brother opened fire on a group of us in the lobby of Heath High School. He killed three of my friends. He hurt many more people. He broke my heart. But let me tell you a secret that the world doesn’t know: the story is not about him. The story is about us.

You don’t feel it now, but you are the heroes of this story. Write your narrative with all the energy you have, and treat it with great honor. Even the ugly parts.

In the coming days, weeks and years, you will do amazing things.

You will go back to school and you will go back to work. You will have a prom and a graduation. You will fall in love. You will be heartbroken and you will be afraid, but you will do it anyway.

You will feel unimaginable pain and will discover the true meaning of the word “terror.” You will experience profound joy and earth-shattering awe.

Embrace all of these things because the feelings will come and go, but that richness of life is a very special gift. You are the recipient of an extra dose of life.

All these things will become normal to you, but they are not normal. They’re superpowers! You have become superhuman because you are a survivor. Keep breathing.

Here’s a message from 20 years out: In 20 years, this will not make sense and it will still hurt like hell, but hang in there together. Do it with the kind of confidence that only comes from knowing you’ve already lived the worst day of your life. In 20 years, you will be a force to be reckoned with.

That’s what we become. My high school classmates are my heroes. The nerds and jocks have turned into doctors, nurses, therapists, teachers, attorneys, and police officers. We are parents, community leaders, and advocates.

Not one of us had it easy, but we know that heroes never do. We are so very different from one another, and we have such different perspectives. We don’t all agree or even get along, but we are tied together across time and space, and we are so very strong.

We are all driven in unique ways to make the world a better place — to make up for the ugly we have lived. Sometimes we do that through smarts, sometimes through savvy, and sometimes through spunk and sheer force of will (we have a lot of that!). We always do it with remarkable purpose.

Today you’re at the center of the world, and your private grief is very public.

You’ll find that America can only digest these tragedies in tiny pieces, and these conversations will move with the ebb and flow of the news cycle.

There will be lots of discussions about politics, priorities, and social media condolences. Those are good for civil discourse, but they are not for you. Not right now.

Don’t read the articles. Don’t let outsiders write your story. Circle the wagons and grieve in the way you need to, even if you risk being misunderstood. This is your story, and it is a novel, not an article. When the nation moves on, you’ll feel very relieved. But you’ll also feel sort of lonely … as if Marshall County is forgotten.

Know in your heart that you are never alone and you are never forgotten. You are part of our club, and you are in the company of heroes. Keep breathing.

“Contact us for more information or if you just need to talk. Or, call our crisis line at 800.592.3980“.

For Parents:

Parent Guidelines for 
Helping Youth after the Incidents at Marshall County High School

Parent Guidelines for 
Helping Youth after the Incidents at Marshall County High School

The recent events at Marshall County High School have been an extremely frightening experience, and the days, weeks, and months following can be very stressful. Your children and family will recover over time, especially with the support of relatives, friends, and community. But families and youth may have had different experiences during and after the incident. How long it takes to recover will depend on what happened to you and your family during and after this event. Some have been seriously injured and will require medical treatment and long-term rehabilitation. Over time, some youth and adults will return to normal routines, while others may struggle. Children and teens may react differently depending on their age and prior experiences. Expect that youth may respond in different ways, and be supportive and understanding of different reactions, even when you are having your own reactions and difficulties.

Children’s and teen’s reactions are strongly influenced by how parents, relatives, teachers, and other caregivers respond to the event. They often turn to these adults for information, comfort, and help. There are many reactions that are common after mass violence. These generally diminish with time, but knowing about them can help you to be supportive, both of yourself and your children.

Common Reactions

  • Feelings of anxiety, fear, and worry about the safety of self and others
    • Fears that another shooting may occur
    • Changes in behavior:
    • Increase in activity level
    • Decrease in concentration and attention
    • Increase in irritability and anger
    • Sadness, grief, and/or withdrawal
    • Radical changes in attitudes and expectations for the future
    • Increases or decreases in sleep and appetite
    • Engaging in harmful habits like drinking, using drugs, or doing things that are harmful to self or others
    • Lack of interest in usual activities, including how they spend time with friends
    • Physical complaints (headaches, stomachaches, aches and pains)
    • Changes in school and work-related habits and behavior with peers and family
    • Staying focused on the shooting (talking repeatedly about it)
    • Strong reactions to reminders of the shooting (seeing friends who were also present during shooting, media images, smoke, police, memorials)
    • Increased sensitivity to sounds (loud noises, screaming)

Things I Can Do for Myself

  •  Take care of yourself. Do your best to drink plenty of water, eat regularly, and get enough sleep and exercise.
    ·  Help each other. Take time with other adult relatives, friends, or members of the community to talk or support each other.
    ·  Put off major decisions. Avoid making any unnecessary life-altering decisions during this time.
    ·  Give yourself a break. Take time to rest and do things that you like to do.

Things I Can Do for My Child

  •  Spend time talking with your children. Let them know that they are welcome to ask questions and express their concerns and feelings. You should remain open to answering new questions and providing helpful information and support. You might not know all the answers and it is OK to say that. At the same time, don’t push them to talk if they don’t want to. Let them know you are available when they are ready.
    ·  Find time to have these conversations. Use time such as when you eat together or sit together in the evening to talk about what is happening in the family as well as in the community. Try not to have these conversations close to bedtime, as this is the time for resting.
    ·  Promote your children’s self-care. Help children by encouraging them to drink enough water, eat regularly, and get enough rest and exercise. Let them know it is OK to take a break from talking with others about the recent incident or from participating in any of the memorial events.
    ·  Help children feel safe. Talk with children about their concerns over safety and discuss changes that are occurring in the community to promote safety. Encourage your child to voice their concerns to you or to teachers at school.
    ·  Maintain expectations or “rules.” Stick with family rules, such as curfews, checking in with you while with friends, and keeping up with homework and chores. On a time-limited basis, keep a closer watch on where teens are going and what they are planning to do to monitor how they are doing. Assure them that the extra check-in is temporary, just until things stabilize.
    ·  Address acting out behaviors. Help children/teens understand that “acting out” behaviors are a dangerous way to express strong feelings over what happened. Examples of “acting out include intentionally cutting oneself, driving recklessly, engaging in unprotected sex, and abusing drugs or alcohol. You can say something like, “Many children and adults feel out of control and angry right now. They might even think drinking or taking drugs will help somehow. It’s very normal to feel that way – but it’s not a good idea to act on it.” Talk with children about other ways of coping with these feelings (distraction, exercise, writing in a journal, spending time with others).
    ·  Limit media exposure. Protect your child from too much media coverage about the attacks, including on the Internet, radio, television, or other technologies (e.g., texting, Facebook, Twitter). Explain to them that media coverage and social media technologies can trigger fears of the attacks happening again and also spread rumors. Let them know they can distract themselves with another activity or that they can talk to you about how they are feeling.
    ·  Be patient. Children may be more distracted and need added help with chores or homework once school is in session.
    ·  Address withdrawal/shame/guilt feelings. Explain that these feelings are common and correct excessive self-blame with realistic explanations of what actually could have been done. Reassure them that they did not cause any of the deaths and that it was not a punishment for anything that anyone did “wrong.” You can say, “Many children, and even adults, feel like you do. They are angry and blame themselves, thinking they could have done more. You’re not at fault. There was nothing more you could have done.”
    ·  Manage reminders. Help children identify different reminders (people, places, sounds, smells, feelings) and to clarify the difference between the event and the reminders that occur after it. When children experience a reminder, they can say to themselves, “I am upset because I am reminded of the shooting because the potato chip bag popped. But now there is no shooting and I am safe.” Some reminders may be related to the loss of friends and/or family (photos of the person, music listened to together, locations of time spent together). Help your child cope with these loss reminders and provide them extra comfort during these times.
    ·  Monitor changes in relationships. Explain to children that strains on relationships are expectable. Emphasize that everyone needs family and friends for support during this time. Spend more time talking as a family about how everyone is doing. Encourage tolerance for how your family and friends may be recovering or feeling differently. Accept responsibility for your own feelings, by saying “I want to apologize for being irritable with you yesterday. I was having a bad day.”
    ·  Address radical changes in attitudes and expectations for the future. Explain to children that changes in people’s attitudes are common and tend to be temporary after a tragedy like this. These feelings can include feeling scared, angry, and sometimes revengeful. Find other ways to make them feel more in control and talk about their feelings.
    ·  Get adults in your children’s life involved. If there has been a serious injury, death in the family, death of a close friend, or if your child is having difficulties, let your child’s teacher or other caring adults know so that they can be of help.
    ·  Empower your child to get involved in their medical care. For children or teens with injuries and long-term medical needs, encourage them to participate in medical discussions and decisions as much as possible. Have them ask their own questions and give opinions about different procedures. Teens are especially concerned about their physical appearance, fitting in, and their privacy. Talk with them about their concerns, problem-solve ways to address them, and respect their privacy.

Restoring a sense of safety and security, and providing opportunities for normal development within the social, family and community context are important steps to the recovery of children, adolescents, and families.

For more information or to seek help for you or a loved one, contact Four Rivers Behavioral Health’s crisis line at 800.592.3980 or visit our website at

Psychological Impact of the Recent Shooting

Psychological Impact of the Recent Shooting

The combination of life-threatening traumatic personal experiences, loss of loved ones, disruption of routines and expectations of daily life, and post-violence adversities pose psychological challenges to the recovery of children and families in the affected areas. The following issues may be helpful to consider:

Reactions to Danger

Danger refers to the sense that events or activities have the potential to cause harm. In the wake of the recent catastrophic violence, people and communities have a greater appreciation for the enormous danger of violence and terrorism and the need for effective emergency management plans. There will be widespread fears of recurrence that are increased by misinformation and rumors. Danger always increases the need and desire to be close to others, making separation from family members and friends more difficult.

Posttraumatic Stress Reactions

Posttraumatic stress reactions are common, understandable, and expectable, but are nevertheless serious. The three categories are: 1) Intrusive Reactions, meaning ways the traumatic experience comes back to mind. These include recurrent upsetting thoughts or images, strong emotional reactions to reminders of the attacks, and feelings that something terrible is going to happen again; 2) Avoidance and Withdrawal Reactions, including avoiding people, places and things that are reminders of the attacks, withdrawal reactions, including feeling emotionally numb, detached or estranged from others, and losing interest in usual pleasurable activities; and 3) Physical Arousal Reactions, including sleep difficulties, poor concentration, irritability, jumpiness, nervousness, and being “on the lookout for danger.”

Grief Reactions

Grief reactions are normal, vary from person to person, and can last for many years. There is no single “correct” course of grieving. Personal, family, religious, and cultural factors affect the course of grief. Over time, grief reactions tend to include more pleasant thoughts and activities, such as positive reminiscing or finding uplifting ways to memorialize or remember a loved one.

Traumatic Grief

People who have suffered the loss of a loved one under traumatic circumstances often find grieving even more difficult than it might otherwise be. Their minds stay on the circumstances of the death, including preoccupations with how the loss could have been prevented, what the last moments were like, and issues of accountability. Traumatic grief changes the course of mourning, putting individuals on a different time course than is usually expected.


Depression is associated with prolonged grief and strongly related to the accumulation of post-violent adversities. Symptoms can include depressed or irritable mood, change in sleep or appetite, decreased interest in life activities, fatigue, and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Some youth and adults may experience suicidal thoughts.

Trauma and Loss Reminders

Trauma reminders: Many people will continue to encounter places, people, sights, sounds, smells, and inner feelings that remind them of the shooting. The sounds of gunfire, the smell of smoke, and people screaming have become powerful reminders. Adults and youth are often not aware that they are responding to a reminder, and the reason for their change in mood or behavior may go unrecognized.

Loss reminders: Those who have lost loved ones continue to encounter situations and circumstances that remind them of the absence of their loved one. These reminders can bring on feelings of sadness, emptiness in the survivor’s life, and missing or longing for the loved one’s presence.

Consequences of These Reactions

Intrusive images and reactivity to reminders can seriously interfere with school performance and avoidance of reminders can lead to restrictions on important activities, relationships, interests, and plans for the future. Irritability and impaired decision-making can interfere with getting along with family members and friends. Trauma-related sleep disturbance is often overlooked but can be persistent and affect daily functioning. Some may respond by being unusually aggressive or restless, needing to be around parents or caregivers more than usual, or voicing fears or concerns about their safety or the safety of their friends. Adolescents may become inconsistent in their behavior, start to withdrawal and avoid social situations, become overly confrontational or aggressive, or engage in high-risk behaviors (e.g., driving recklessly, using drugs and alcohol). Depressive reactions can become quite serious, leading to a major decline in school performance, social isolation, loss of interest in normal activities, self-medication, acting-out behavior, and, most seriously, attempts at suicide. Traumatic grief can lead to the inability to mourn, reminisce and remember, fear of a similar fate or the sudden loss of other loved ones, and to difficulties in establishing or maintaining new relationships. Adolescents may respond to traumatic losses by trying to become too self-sufficient and independent or by becoming more dependent and taking less initiative.


Restoring a sense of safety and security, and providing opportunities for normal development within the social, family and community context are important steps to the recovery of children, adolescents, and families.

For more information or to seek help for you or a loved one, contact Four Rivers Behavioral Health’s crisis line at 800.592.3980 or visit our website at

Recognizing the Signs of Anxiety from Trauma

Recognizing the Signs of Anxiety from Trauma

For many, choosing to seek help is tough and for others, especially children, parents may not recognize that their child has been affected. Children often internalize traumatic events and it is important that parents and other adults recognize the signs of trauma and get help when needed.

Few events hit home for children and families like a school shooting. When children see such an event on television or are directly involved, it is natural for them to worry about their safety, even after the initial shock of the event has worn off.

Four Rivers Behavioral Health advises parents to use this time as an opportunity to talk and listen to their children. It is important, to be honest: Parents should acknowledge to children that bad things do happen, especially when talking with younger children. But, parents should also reassure them with the information that many people are working to keep them safe, including their parents, teachers, and local police. Adults should be attentive to children’s concerns: Again, it is important to reassure children that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to make their environment—school, home, and neighborhood—safe for them. Parents, teachers, and school administrators also need to communicate with one another not only about how to keep kids safe but about which children might need more reassurance and the best way to give it to them.

Most children and young adults are quite resilient and will return to their normal activities and personality relatively quickly, but parents should be alert to any signs of anxiety that might suggest that a child or teenager might need more assistance. Such indicators could be a change in the child’s school performance, changes in relationships with peers and teachers, excessive worry, school refusal, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches or stomachaches, or loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy. Also, remember that everyone will respond to trauma differently. Some will have no ill effects; while others may suffer an immediate and acute effect. Still, others may not show signs of stress until sometime after the event.

Youth are just as affected as adults are by a traumatic event. Some may be affected even more, but no one realizes it. Without intending to, we, as parents, may send our children a message that it is not all right to talk about the experience. This may cause confusion, self-doubt, and feelings of helplessness for a child. Children need to hear that it is normal to feel frightened during and after a traumatic event. When you acknowledge and normalize these feelings for your children, it will help them cope with their experience and move on. Following exposure to a disaster or traumatic event, children are likely to show signs of stress. Signs include sadness and anxiety, outbursts and tantrums, aggressive behavior, a return to earlier behavior that was outgrown, stomachaches and headaches, and an ongoing desire to stay home from school or away from friends. These reactions are normal and usually do not last long.

Parents can help by providing extra attention and consideration and simply listening to their children, but not forcing them to talk about feelings and emotions. However, parents should encourage discussion of trauma experiences among peers.

Parents can help by providing extra attention and consideration and simply listening to their children, but not forcing them to talk about feelings and emotions. However, parents should encourage discussion of trauma experiences among peers.