By Cary Quashen, CAS
Disasters and tragedies can strike anywhere and at any time – nationally and locally. From natural disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes to man-made tragedies such as terrorism, domestic violence, and street violence; disasters and tragedies are a fact of life.
And in the midst of crisis our children need our calm resolve. Responsive parents teach children that adults can be trusted and relied upon when life is at its scariest. Ironic, but true, troubled times make for teachable moments in life and as role models we can help children learn to cope constructively during crisis. As parents we can help children manage their fears, insecurities, and confusion.
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On the heels of a horrific natural storm disaster Sandy, and a terrifying school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, there has been a constant barrage of media discussing these events visually and audibly. This sad turn of events have has become a daily conversation in all walks of life, be it adults, children and teens.
Remember, children sense the anxiety and tension in adults around them. And, like adults, children experience the same feelings of helplessness and lack of control that tragedy-related stress can bring about. Unlike adults, children have little experience to help them place current situations into perspective.
Children respond differently to tragedy, depending upon their understanding and maturity, and their sense of anxiety is heightened if they interpret the tragedy as a personal danger to themselves or those they love and care about.
While talking about tragedies can be a challenging task, there are recommended ways to do so.
•Create an open and supportive environment where children know they can ask questions. Follow your child’s lead, find out what they know and understand.
•Keep your emotions in check, making sure that you are clear and calm when speaking to children no matter their age, be they children, tweens or adolescents.
•Give honest answers and information. Use words and concepts they can understand. Help children to find ways to express themselves and to know that people are there to help. Children learn by watching parents and teachers react and listening to their conversations.
•Don't let children watch too much television with frightening repetitious images.
•Talk about safety at home and at school.
•Remind children that these are very rare instances and that as caring adults we are here to protect them.
•Be open to what your children are feeling and tell them it’s ok to feel those things, whatever they may be -- sad, scared, nervous. Never discount their feelings or tell them it’s time to stop talking about tragedies and disasters.
• Monitor for physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches or other pains. Physical symptoms are often reflective of emotional distress. Nightmares, withdrawalfrom family and friends, or preoccupation with the recent tragedies or ideas of death and violence, agitated behavior or new behavioral problems should also be of concern. Do not hesitate to contact your family doctor or mental health professional.
And remember adult support and reassurance is the key to helping children through a traumatic time.
Cary Quashen a certified addiction specialist and the president and founder of Action Family Counseling and the Action Parent & Teen Support Group Programs located in the Santa Clarita Valley, Los Angeles, Ventura and Kern Counties.
Article Name: Editorial: No Matter Where Tragedy or Disaster Strikes, Kids Need To Talk 
Article Source: Santa Clarita News 
Author: Cary Quashen, CAS