The wake of tragic events can leave children terrified and adults feeling helpless. School is supposed to be a safe place yet people are being killed and threats are being made. Some kids are afraid to go to school. Some parents are afraid to let them. It seems impossible to know what to do or say.
The following are some tips to help guide adults while communicating with children about these scary events:
- It’s important for parents to remember that they are the expert on their child. This knowledge can be used to inform how they address them.
- Take age and development into consideration. Sometimes it’s hard to know just how much information to give a child. A general rule of thumb: Follow the child’s lead in the conversation. Don’t answer what isn’t asked.
- It’s ok to show emotions. Managing emotions in a healthy way role models this for children. However, if these emotions are too strong or uncontrolled it can make the situation scarier for the child. It’s important for adults to get support from a trusted friend or professional if they are feeling excessively overwhelmed.
- Limit what young children see on the news and other forms of media. Be aware of what is playing in the background at home or in the car. However, it’s almost impossible to avoid exposure altogether since kids have access to information from various sources. By being one of those sources, parents can have more control over what their children are hearing.
- Validate. This IS scary and it’s ok to say so. Kids need to know they can come to their parents or other trusted adults in their lives without fear of judgement.
- Do your best to keep the routine as is.
- Rumors happen, don’t contribute.
- Help kids identify safe adults and emphasize what is being done in their schools to protect them. There are measures being taken to keep people safe. Pointing this out shows your child that when bad things happen there are good people out there to help. Brain storm with your children things they can do to help or make the world a better place.
Everyone responds, reacts and processes things differently. Some kids may have strong reactions others may not. Some may have many questions and others none. Some kids may require several conversations over time, for others, once is enough.
Just like an adult, children who are overwhelmed may need a break from normal activities. Stepping away or taking a break may become troublesome if the child is unable to return. You may notice physical symptoms or changes in behavior. Increased anxiety/fears/worries, irritability, and changes in behavior are to be expected. However, if this persists, or if drastic and sudden changes in behavior occur, consult your child’s pediatrician or mental health professional.
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Are you feeling like the daily struggle is just too much? Are you worried your child may have needs that extend beyond what you are currently able to offer them? Do you live in Central New York? If you are interested in learning more about psychotherapy and play therapy for your child I can be reached at 315-737-3094 or email@example.com
Jennie Mazza Jones, LCSW, RPT, CCPT has a private practice located in Clinton NY, where she specializes in providing psychotherapy to children and their caregivers utilizing Play Therapy. Jennie helps kids who long to feel accepted, want to do well, and wish they could control their worries, anger, and behaviors, but struggle because they communicate in a way that many adults don’t understand. She also helps parents/caregivers who want to help the important children in their lives reach their truest potential, but are afraid to make the wrong move, fear the worst, or are just unsure of what to do next. Jennie can be reached 315-737-3094, firstname.lastname@example.org, and www.jenniemazzajones.com