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Going back to school after a tragedy: How to help your children cope

It’s a terrifying situation no parent wants to imagine, but we can’t ignore the truth: School shootings do happen, and the tragedy in Parkland, Florida highlights how often they’re happening. It’s only February and there have already been at least eight school shootings in America this year.


Kids are scared and parents are scared, too. Not only of the possibility of violence in our own communities, but of fielding questions from our kids we wish they didn’t have.

In the face of that fear, we parents can empower ourselves to protect our children’s sense of security at school, and their mental health.

Psychologists Dr. Laurie Zelinger and her husband, Dr. Fred Zelinger, tell Motherly parents need to start by quelling our own anxiety first. “Turn off the TV once you know what's going on and don’t obsessively watch or listen to the news,” Fred suggests. “If it's two parents [in the household], talk to each other.”

That’s what the Zelingers have done in their own household over the years.

Laurie is a child psychologist and author of Please Explain ‘Terrorism’ to Me: A Story for Children, PEARLS of Wisdom for Their Parents. She says that if one parent is feeling a lot of anxiety, it’s okay to let the other parent take the lead in a discussion with the kids. Both parents, though, should be mindful to keep their own fears and anxiety in check so that kids feel a sense of security.

“Even if [you’re] not comfortable, you have to do a couple of things to make yourself look more comfortable,” she suggests. “Talk much more slowly than you think you need to, and sit at your child’s eye level.”

The Drs. Zelinger suggest the first step in creating an atmosphere of comfort is making sure kids are warm and cozy, so cuddle up with a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa, but don’t start heavy discussions with your kids right at bedtime. Instead, set aside an earlier time in the day to hang out with your kids and answer their questions.

If the idea of talking about school shootings with your kids has you frazzled, try using Dr. Zelinger’s ‘PEARLS’ of wisdom method.

P is for Prepare

Before discussing the Parkland shooting with your children, decided what you think they need to know, and plan out how you’re going to explain it at an age-appropriate level. “They don’t need every detail,” says Fred.

E is for Explain

If your child wants to know why their school is practicing drills, or why everyone keeps talking about guns, tell them, but keep it simple and on their level. “I would probably give them an explanation that was only two or three sentences and see if that satisfies them,” says Laurie.

If it seems like your kid isn’t getting what you’re saying, as them to break it down for you. “You cannot assume that what you say is understood, unless you check,” says Fred.

A is for Answer

If your child asks the same question more than once, try to use the same explanation each time you respond. “You’re usually better off using the same answer you used before so the child realizes there is certainty in it,” Fred notes.

R is for Reassure

According to Laurie, one of the best things parents can do for a child who is concerned about school shootings is simply reassure them that the grownups are doing their best to keep them safe.

Don’t make guarantees, but remind them that there are more good people in the world than bad.

L is for Listen

“Just let your kids talk,” says Laurie. Take some mental notes while they go on. The things they keep repeating are the issues they’re confused about and that you can clarify later. Be mindful of the areas that they’re avoiding too, because maybe you need to fill in an important detail that they’ve totally missed.

S is for Safeguard

If your child is worried that their school will be targeted by a school shooter, take a moment to talk about all the things their school is doing to prevent that from happening. Make sure we’re reminding the children of all the safeguards in place to protect them,” says Laurie.

She says if a child is particularly scared, parents might consider having an in-classroom conversation with the teacher while the little one is present, and saying something like: “Sam here is really worried about bad guys coming into the school, but I’ve told him you know all the rules to protect kids from bad guys, right Ms. Smith?”

“The mother is passing the trust baton on to the teacher and the child sees it,” Laurie explains.

Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee another school shooting won’t happen. But we can guarantee our children that we will always be there to listen to them, and hug them tight at the end of the school day.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Neve Campbell recently went from a mama of one to two when she and her husband, JJ Feild, adopted a baby son they named Raynor.

Raynor is a super unique baby name. While Neve's son shares his name with a garage door manufacturing company and a character from the Starcraft video game, he probably won't share it with anyone in his future elementary school.

So why did Campbell and Feild pick a name that's literally off the Social Security Administration's baby name chart? Well, because his 6-year-old brother's name isn't very common either.

"Our son Caspian has a unique name, I like having a unique name," Campbell explained on a recent episode of Live with Kelly and Ryan. "So we weren't gonna call him Bob because you can't be Bob and Caspian."

Baby name experts agree with Campbell

Linda Rosenkrantz of Nameberry.com previously offered this advice to Motherly readers:

"If you already have children, consider how the new baby's name would blend with the others. I can't imagine Kendyl and Keeley with a brother named Ezekiel."

The Kendyl and Keely in Rosenkrantz's example are the daughters of country star Jason Aldean, whose wife Brittany was expecting this time last year (and is again now).

The Aldeans ended up choosing Memphis as the name for their now 7-month-old baby boy, and while it's not as matchy-matchy as Kendyl and Keely's are, it does seem to flow well alongside them.

The same can be said for Raynor and Caspian.

Campbell was totally right. 'Bob' just wouldn't have been a good fit.

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When model Mara Martin was one of 16 finalists selected to walk in the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swim Search show, she was thrilled to fulfill a lifelong dream. And when she woke up the day after the show to see that she and her baby daughter had made headlines around the world, she was thrilled all over again.

Martin breastfed her 5-month-old daughter Aria while walking in the runway, and the story spread quickly.


"It is truly so humbling and unreal to say the least," Martin wrote in an Instagram post Monday. "I'm so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL! But to be honest, the real reason I can't believe it is a headline is because it shouldn't be a headline!!! My story of being a mother and feeding her while walking is just that."

SI Swimsuit Editor MJ Day says the breastfeeding moment wasn't planned in advance, but it worked out wonderfully. Day was speaking with the models backstage when she noticed Aria was peacefully nursing away. Having breastfed her own two children, Day recognized this as a powerful moment in the making, according to SI Swimsuit.

"I asked Mara if she would want to walk and continue to nurse. She said 'Oh my gosh, yes! Really? Are you sure?', and I said absolutely! I loved the idea to be able to allow Mara to keep nursing and further highlight how incredible and beautiful women are," Day explained.

Martin hopes that her moment in the spotlight can help other mamas feel comfortable nursing when and where they feel like it, but she doesn't want to overshadow some of the other women who took part in the show.

"One woman is going to boot camp in two weeks to serve our country," she wrote. "One woman had a mastectomy (@allynrose), and another is a cancer survivor, 2x paralympic gold medalist, as well as a mother herself (@bren_hucks you rock) Those are the stories that our world should be discussing!!!!"

And thanks to Martin's powerful motherhood moment, now, people are.

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Usually when celebrities post swimsuit photos on Instagram they don't exactly look like your average beach-going mom, but former Bachelorette (and mom of two) Ali Fedotowsky posted a series of bikini photos on Monday that are both beautiful and relatable.

"This might be my most vulnerable post on Instagram ever," she wrote in the caption for the photos which show a postpartum belly that looks like a real postpartum belly.

"At the end of the day, I know it's important to be open and honest about my postpartum body in hopes that it helps even one person out there who is struggling with their own body image," Fedotowsky (who just gave birth to her second child in May) wrote.

In the first photo of the series she's wearing a sarong around her stomach, but in the second and third photos Fedotowsky reveals the kind of stomach many mamas sport: It's not perfectly taut, she's not showing off any abs, but it is definity beautiful.

"If you swipe to see the second photo in this post, you see that my body has changed. My skin around my stomach is very loose and stretched out, I'm 15lbs heavier than I used to be, and my cup size has grown quite significantly," Fedotowsky writes.

The photos are a sponsored post for Lilly and Lime Swimwear (a line made for women with larger busts) but that doesn't mean it wasn't brave. In fact, the fact that it's an ad makes it even more amazing because research shows that when advertising only shows us bodies that don't look like our own, women become "generally more dissatisfied with their body and appearance".

Ali Fedotowsky

On her blog Fedotowsky notes that a lot of comments on her previous Instagram posts have been followers remarking how slim she looks, or how much they wish they looked like she does postpartum. By dropping that sarong and showing her tummy Fedotowsky is showing other mothers that there is nothing wrong with their own.

"While I appreciate the positive comments, you guys are always so good to me, I keep trying to explain that I'm just good at picking out clothes that flatter my body and hide my tummy," she wrote on her blog.

"I bounced back pretty quickly after I gave birth to Molly. But things are different this time and I'm OK with that. I'm learning to love my body and embrace how it's changed. I hope I get back to my pre-pregnancy shape one day, but that may never happen. And if it doesn't, that's OK."

Ali Fedotowsky

It is okay, because our bodies are more than our swimsuit selfies. They the vessels that carry us through life and carry our children and provide a safe, warm place for those children feel love.

Loose skin is a beautiful thing.


Thanks for keeping it real, Ali.

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