By Connie Hagen, EAP Counselor
Recent violent events in both metropolitan and rural communities remind us that they can occur at any place and any time. Parents can help their children cope with these traumatic events. Here are five suggestions:
Talk to your children. Encourage your children to ask questions. Try to explain what has happened in order to help ease their fears. Reassure them that, although these are horrible events, many people are working to keep them safe. Explain that emergencies can happen in different ways and that schools have crisis plans in place for their safety. Remind children to take the school’s emergency drills and procedures seriously.
Encourage children to talk about what is upsetting them. Personal discussions are the best way to share information. Find time to communicate with your children during dinner or bedtime. Focus your discussions on what they want to share with you. Listen to their thoughts and feelings and try to understand what they are saying. Allow them to express their fears and ideas. Talk honestly about your own feelings and express your opinion without putting theirs down. Make them understand that you are there for them.
Try to limit news coverage exposure of the event details to young children. Continue reassuring that schools, communities, and law enforcement are working really hard to prevent any future events from affecting them.
Be aware of warning signs that your child or teenager is struggling emotionally, such as refusing to attend school, having nightmares, headaches and stomachaches. There could also be signs of diminished school performance, loss of appetite, and diminished relationship with others. They may become more irritable. They may have trouble with their behavior, concentration, and attention. Take advantage of professional help, like school counselors and social workers.
Take care of yourself so you can take care of your children. Try to maintain normalcy at home. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider talking to someone who can help. Do not hesitate to find a mental health professional to help you guide your children through the current crisis.