When a tragedy such as a natural disaster, mass shooting or terrorist attack occurs, it can be hard to talk to your child about what happened. Feeling overwhelmed, powerless or even angry as you watch news of another mass shooting, this one in Las Vegas? Those feelings are normal, even for people who don’t have ties to Nevada or anyone there, said a local counselor Monday morning. On NBC news tonight, 10/2/2017, we were provided with information on how to start the conversation and what you can do to help your child cope.
Each person’s reaction to a tragedy is unique to that individual — and that’s OK, said Dana Careless, a counselor from the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (they use that capitalization on purpose). If you start to feel overwhelmed, “take a step back, take a deep breath, and disconnect if you need to,” said Careless.
When children ask about the event
- Be open with children if they want to talk.
- Try to normalize the discussion and reiterate to them that it is okay to be upset or confused by the tragedy.
- If they don’t want to talk, give them some space until they feel like engaging.
- If your children seem to be struggling more than usual, consider reaching out for help or following up on their condition.
The Mayo Clinic has advice for helping children thru tragedies and what to look for if children are having a hard time coping:
How do I start a conversation with my child
- Take time to think about what you want to say. If possible, choose a time when your child is most likely to want to talk, such as before dinner. Ask your child what he or she already knows about the tragedy — and what questions or concerns he or she might have. Let your child’s answers guide your discussion.
How do I explain what happened
- Tell the truth. Focus on the basics, and avoid sharing unnecessary details. Don’t exaggerate or speculate about what might happen. Avoid dwelling on the scale or scope of the tragedy.
- Listen closely to your child for misinformation, misconceptions and underlying fears. Provide accurate information. Share your own thoughts and remind your child that you’re there for him or her.
- Preschool children. Get down to your child’s eye level. Speak in a calm and gentle voice using words your child understands. Share steps that are being taken to keep your child safe and give hugs. Do not criticize children who might wet the bed after a tragedy and become more clingy.
- Elementary and early middle school children. Children in this age range might have more questions about whether they’re truly safe. They might need help separating fantasy from reality. This age group may experience nightmares following the event and have trouble at school. Sudden aggression may follow.
- Upper middle school and high school children. Older children will want more information about the tragedy and recovery efforts. They’re more likely to have strong opinions about the causes, as well as suggestions about how to prevent future tragedies and a desire to help those affected. This age group may become sick for no reason and start arguments out of nowhere.
How can I help my child cope
- Remain calm and help your child by reassuring them of their securities by pointing them out.
- Encourage expressions from them and never blame a cultural, racial or ethnic group, or people who have mental illnesses. opinions. Limit media exposure.
- Maintain normal routines but spend extra personal time with them, include lots of cuddling, talks at bedtime, nightlights, etc.
- Do something together for the victims.
- Seek out school resources.
The federal government’s mental health agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has a 24-hour Disaster Relief Helpline. If you would like free support or counseling, contact them at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746.
ref: themayoclinic.org, NBC news
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