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Our nation has been rocked by the tragic events at Newton, Connecticut. These events and the families and persons affected are on all of our minds and hearts. Like us, the children and families for whom we care are experiencing fear, anger, sorrow and helplessness. Media coverage keeps the events and trauma associated with the events firmly in our awareness. Here are some tips, some taken from Save the Children, for parents and adults that might offer some comfort to our families.
1. Turn off the television.
Watching television reports on disasters may overwhelm younger children. They may not understand that the tape of an event is being replayed, and instead think the disaster is happening over and over again. Overexposure to coverage of the events affects teenagers and adults as well. Television limits should be set for both you and your children.
2. Listen to your children carefully.
Before responding, get a clear picture of what it is that they understand and what is leading to their questions. Emotional stress results in part when a child cannot give meaning to dangerous experiences. Find out what he or she understands about what has happened. Their knowledge will be determined by their age and their previous exposure to such events. Begin a dialog to help them gain a basic understanding that is appropriate for their age and responds to their underlying concerns.
3. Give children reassurance and psychological first-aid.
Take this opportunity to let them know that if any emergency or crisis should occur, your primary concern will be their safety. Make sure they know they are being protected.
4. Give your children extra time and attention.
They need your close, personal involvement to comprehend that they are safe and secure. Talk, play and, most important, listen to them. Find time to engage in special activities for children of all ages. Read bedtime stories and sing songs to help younger children fall asleep. Reassure children of your love and support and consider having a time of quiet or prayer, according to your tradition, that can help you as a family express your concerns together.
5. Be a model for your child.
Your child will learn how to deal with these events by seeing how you deal with them. Base the amount of self-disclosure on the age and developmental level of each of your children. Explain your feelings but remember to do so calmly.
6. Watch your own behavior.
Make a point of showing sensitivity toward those affected by the disaster. This is an opportunity to teach your children that we are all part of one world and that we all need to help each other.
7. Help your children return to normal activities.
Children almost always benefit from activity, goal orientation and sociability. Ensure that your child's school environment is also returning to normal patterns and not spending great amounts of time discussing the crisis.