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When I Find Myself In Times Of Trouble: Explaining World Crisis And “Catastrophe” To Kids.

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

The world is a scary enough place for kids without all that has been going on. Just think about all the things WE (adults) take for granted that many of our children worry about and may even stress over. Things like crossing the street, walking to the corner store (especially after sundown) without confrontation or being abduction, being home alone, answering the door or phone (especially when home alone), gunfire breaking out at school (something most of us NEVER worried about, in fact school was a safe haven for US), just to name a few. Now add to that the threat of terror and/or a parent who lives and/or works in one of the most highly targeted areas of our region and you have one very “frightened” and perhaps anxious child.

Pills anyone?

Yet, pills don’t have to be the solution, answer, or even a temporary “fix”. In fact, experts suggest that the best way to quell anxiety, fear and even potential trauma is my maintaining YOUR cool (as a parent) and keeping YOUR nerves, emotions and fears in check and in control. And, while you certainly don’t want to add to your child’s angst, you do want him or her to be able to express his or her feeling and to talk about them openly, honestly, and freely. With that said, it’s okay to spend more time with your child, give him or her extra nurturing and attention and above all make him or her feel safe and secure.

Discussing (The Possibility Of) Disaster:

Keep It Short And Sweet: Remember, while children “do” know what’s going on, they don’t understand the semantics behind it, so trying to explain it in detail will only add more confusion to their consternation. Also note, that this may be a way for your child to talk about life and death, and again you don’t want to alarm them by getting to technical regardless of YOUR understanding and belief. Try to express exerting some extra care, but reassuring your child that he or she is safe and that YOU are doing all in your power to keep it that way.

Respect His/Her Feelings And Give Them The Stamp Of Approval: While you may be addressing your child’s concerns, try to refrain from using frightening words such as sad/mad/ worried/ scared etc. Just keep in mind how these words make YOU feel in uncomfortable situations, even though you’re an adult. Try to find reassuring ways to let your child know that while his/her fears are real; there is nothing to worry about.

Make It A Learning Experience: Take the opportunity to teach you child a lesson about the world, people and about tolerance. It’s especially important to emphasize that while we may all disagree with one another at some point and get upset over our differences, it’s important to stay in control, always show love, compassion, and understanding, and never, ever, do anyone any harm.

Re-establish His/Her Trust In People/Adults: Tell your child that while we all should be cautious, there are a number of caring and qualified adults (including you and your mater or the mother or father of your child) who are doing their best and working their hardest at keeping him/her and your family safe.

Keep Your Perspective In Perspective And Meet Your Child On His/Her Level: Keep in mind that while children are definitely smarter than we think or they seem, the younger they are the more difficult it will be for them to place perspective on what’s going on and/or to fully comprehend it. In fact, some (younger) children may not understand that images they see on TV (of the war) are those of a place far away. Encourage your child to ask question and be prepared to answer them clearing up any confusion and misunderstanding, but remember to keep it on your child’s level.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Keep in mind that if YOU are anxious and/or fearful your child will pick up on it, so try to keep your cool. Also, don’t just tell him/her that everything is okay, but “prove” it by sticking as close to your normal routine/schedule as possible and take note of any changes in his/her behavior, energy, and/or interests. And, be prepared to show more affection and spend more time together.

Take Action: Allow your child to be part of the effort to keep your family/neighborhood/community, even country safe. He or she may want to take an active role in preserving peace by doing something to raise money and help, and this just may make him or her feel like there REALLY is hope. So, remember to be both instrumental and encouraging.

Change YOUR Focus: Although current events may be at the forefront of your mind, it’s imperative that you focus on happy subjects when the kids are around, exhibiting confidence and assurance. Save the serious talk for when they are out of earshot or soundly sleeping.

Answering Tough Questions:

What Is Going On? Kids, much like adults want to know what is happening and need to feel informed. And, according to experts, they like to know so that they can feel more in control of a frightening situation. Experts suggest giving your child the facts, but in very simple terms, always reaffirming the positive and always teaching him or her why this is NOT a nice thing to do.

Am I At Risk? Kids want to know if and when they are in danger. And, they often worry about the imminent danger to their friends and loved ones. Try to stay positive by noting while these things occasionally do happen, but the emphasis on occasionally, and that’s why they are front-page news. Also let your child know that your family (his/her relatives and friends) is of little concern to the people who are causing the fracas, so they will be fine. And, besides you are there to protect you child. Also, don’t forget to allow your child to call and talk to the people he or she is concerned about.

Why Wasn’t Prevention Possible: You may find your child concerned about the “failure” to prevent devastating situations and tragedies. You should explain that when people built the building they NEVER expected anything like this to happen and also let him or her know that most buildings are strong and safe, but sometimes, though it is very sad, things just happen. Reassure your child by informing him/her that now people are even more dedicated to making sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

Who Is To Blame? Kids will want to know who is to blame and who should be punished. They may even have questions about God, and how God figures into all of this. Allow your child his/her confusion, frustration and rage, but explain that one or a few bad apples don’t spoil the bunch, and teach him or her not to stereotype. Explain that there were probably other people in those buildings, planes etc that didn’t like each other, but didn’t set out to hurt anyone either. And, when it comes to God, remind your child that while God gives people the tools to NOT be hurtful, sometimes people still do what THEY want.

Is It Safe To Go To My Room, Sleep And Are There Monsters Under My Bed? A travesty can shatter a child’s comfort zone on many levels, even to the point of making him/her feel unsafe in their own home, room, and bed. Explain that you are there for your child and that your surroundings are safe. Explain that there is no one after him or her and that there are no bad people or monsters lurking under his bed or in closets, and go show him or her. You may also want to let you child stay in your room for a little while until he or she feels (once again) confident and reassured.

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > When I Find Myself In Times Of Trouble: Explaining World Crisis And “Catastrophe” To Kids.

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