In the wake of the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary know that many parents and adults are having a hard time knowing how to help their children deal their feelings surrounding the tragedy. Please do not underestimate the effect that things in the news have on your children. Just because they have not verbally expressed that they are upset, doesn’t mean they are handling things well.
1) Really pay attention to your child
Tune into your child’s behavior. All people cope with life’s pressures differently. Sometimes children will suddenly become afraid of being left alone or in the dark. Others may begin to wet the bed or startle easy. Also watch for changes in your son or daughters eating and sleeping patterns. After a scary event, these small signs can give you great insight to your child’s coping skills.
2) Limit access to the news
When a child sees an event (and images) played over and over again on the news, they may not be able to grasp that it is not multiple terrible tragedies but just one event. Try and redirect their attention and limit how much news is being played while the kids are around, or turn the TV off completely.
3) Set an example
When faced with a crisis, your children will look to you for how to handle it. You can not expect your children to feel calm and safe if you are an emotional mess. Be strong, reassuring, and available for your children. This will help them to feel safe and to move on from the traumatic event.
4) Be emotionally available
Chances are your school child will hear about events that are big news so no matter how careful you are to shield them from tragic events, they will hear about it. It is better for you to talk to your children, then not mention it and wait for them to come to you, as they are looking to you to take the lead. Your children need to hear how you feel about the tragedy and that it is OK for them to feel however they do. Let them know they can come to you if and whenever they want to talk about it. Reassure them they are safe.
5) Stay Positive
Direct your children’s attention to the good in the world. Even in the midst of a tragedy you can focus on the “heroes” like firefighters and the communities pulling together for good. You can also involve your children to be a part of doing good in the world (ex:food/toy drive).
6) Give your child techniques to cope with stress
Remind your kids to take deep breaths when feeling stressed. Giving them a phrase to tell themselves (like “I am safe” or “I can do this”) are also helpful when feeling upset. Suggesting to think of a “happy place” and redirecting their thinking can create a calming effect as well. Most importantly remind your child that they can ALWAYS come to you. Hugs and snuggles never hurt either.
As all of our hearts are healing from this most recent tragedy, please make sure you are giving your children your time and help to heal. Don’t forget about yourself. If you need help to deal with your emotions over the tragedy, there are people you can talk to also. If we work together, we will get through this an become stronger as people, communities and a nation.
For information on how you can help your children through this tragedy, please contact It’s Aparent.