A few weeks after the Nov. 14 Saugus High School shooting, the Child and Family Center began an eight-week support group for students and a seven-week support group for parents to help cope with the mental stress and anxiety that could follow.
As students prepare to return to school after winter break, the center continues both support groups, which take place Thursdays from 4 to 5 p.m.
“We follow a curriculum which focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy,” said Monica Dedhia, program manager at the Child and Family Center. “But we see what’s being brought in by the students and shift our focus where it’s needed.”
Both groups are designed to offer a safe place where difficult feelings can be discussed and therapists can help process emotions.
“We want to educate people who come to these groups,” said Dedhia, “but this also acts as a place where students can identify feelings they may not know how to deal with.”
It’s usual for people to process trauma in different ways. Dedhia said some people can be vocal about issues they have, and others keep feelings hidden, but both are normal.
Dedhia also explained how peer support is important for teenagers and attending the groups can give them a sense of camaraderie. “They’ll see that they’re not alone,” she said.
The parent support group follows a similar curriculum, but adds information on how parents can support themselves while also supporting their children.
“Parents are having their own reactions to this event, but also have concerns about their student’s reaction as well,” Dedhia said.
Many people have mixed emotions regarding safety for themselves and children. Dedhia said this support group can help people who are vulnerable or afraid build a sense of safety.
“People can come share their stories and that’s a good start to gain a sense of safety again,” Dedhia said.
It’s important to look out for warning signs, which may indicate a support group can be beneficial.
Dedhia said the biggest warning sign is a sudden shift in behavior. “If the tragedy is staying on your mind, you feel a sense of guilt, or you develop unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking or using drugs, starting a conversation can be very helpful,” she said.
The support group will continue until Jan. 30. At that time, the center will review students’ and parents’ needs and, if needed, the center will extend the support group.
If the support group ends but additional help is needed by some, the center’s staff are available.
“We value our community’s need,” Dedhia said.
The Child and Family Center can be contacted at 661-259-9439 and is located at 21545 Centre Pointe Parkway, Santa Clarita.