Editorial: Helping Children And Families Cope With Tragedy
Cheryl Jones | Child & Family Center
In the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut people all across the country are asking what to tell their children about such a horrific event. Child & Family Center offers the following advice to parents, teachers and caregivers for helping children and families cope.
First, know that some kids perceive the event as deeply traumatic while others do not. Children with a history of trauma or similar events may be more susceptible to being affected. Show your children that you care about their feelings and that you will do your best to ensure their safety.
Give them a chance to voice their fears, and answer their questions honestly and patiently. These may seem like small things, but they're very important for kids struggling to process a disturbing experience or terrifying disruption in their lives. Use language that is age appropriate and be consistent with answers, as the child may ask the same question many times as they build a narrative about what happened. Some children may not ask questions, so parents should not force them to speak. Some kids prefer to express their feelings with playing with toys, drawing or writing.
Stay calm. This situation is literally a nightmare for parents. Kids don’t need you to telegraph your fears on to them. Turn the TV off when young children are present. Repeated news reports can make kids anxious.
Avoid telling the child how to feel, to be brave or not to cry, and avoid having judgments about their feelings. Reassure them that it’s okay to feel upset when something bad or scary happens. You may experience some changes in behavior such as tantrums, not wanting to attend school, even bedwetting or misbehaving. Try to find the triggers and talk about them. If your child does regress, do not be judgmental.
Make kids feel safe with love and continued routines. There is perhaps nothing more damaging to a child’s development than a feeling that the world is off balance and a negative place. Security gives children confidence at the same time that it lets them be kids while they need to be.
Finally, it’s important to be alert to signs that the children are not recovering in a healthy way. If you notice changes in their patterns of sleep and eating, unusual irritability or trouble focusing, obsessive or pervasive worry you should seek help. Child & Family Center is available for any questions or concerns. If your child is suicidal or after two weeks is unable to enjoy life, withdraws from caregivers, has severe behaviors, has nightmares, flashbacks, can’t stop thinking about it, behaves very differently than before or is overly clingy or fearful, contact Child & Family Center immediately for help.
Responding to the needs of the community, Child & Family Center will present “Coping with Tragedy: “Helping your Children Process and Cope with Disturbing Events,” a special panel presentation with question and answer session open to the entire community. The event will be held on Thursday, January 10, 2013 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Center’s main site: 21545 Centre Pointe Parkway.
Child & Family Center has been providing mental health and behavioral services for children and families in Santa Clarita since 1976, treating issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety and Attention Deficit Disorder, among others.
Services include individual, group and family psychotherapy for children, adolescents and their families. The entire family is involved to encourage nurturing relationships in the home. Our team of professionals includes licensed psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, marriage, family and child therapists and psychiatrists.
The Center currently helps over 850 children and their families each week. For more information, contact 661-259-9439.