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Tips for Helping Children Deal with Traumatic Events

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By Rachel Derry
Staff Writer LIFamilies

After the recent violence in the past months, with the shooting in a Connecticut elementary school being the last straw, it is becoming a weary and anxious feat just to step outside in the morning. It becomes disparaging to turn on the news; afraid the more tragedies have taken place. It causes you to become more than overly-cautious whenever you leave your home. If it is this difficult and frightening as an adult, it's hard to comprehend what our children are going through and are faced with on an everyday basis. Its hard being a parent and having to teach your children about the consequences of OTHERS actions; how it can affect them. As parents, however, it is important that we are the teacher that offers guidance through these pained times, and it's important that we help our children come to terms with such tragic events.

Start by being age appropriate, but honest about the event that took place. You may want to protect and shield your children from horrible events, but children will hear all about them from school and friends. Make sure that your children learn about tough events from you first, if you can help it. Your children will need to know that they can turn to you with questions and/or fears caused by the event. Tell your children the very basic specifics of what happened, such as "A very sick man went to the school and he did hurt a lot of people there," and pause to see what other information they want/need.

Consider taking a technology break for the whole family. Even though you will have already discussed the traumatic events with your children; the news and media will still be playing the incident and follow-up events on a repetitive loop. Watching the same devastating news over and over can cause additional fear and trauma to build in your children, especially if you're not available to explain any additional particulars.

Let your children know that you're always available to answer any of their questions or to listen to their worries or fears. This may present itself as difficult in multiple ways. Younger children may ask repetitive questions or revisit the events over and over again to understand them. Be patient and understand that this is a healthy and developmentally appropriate means for your child to get a grasp on what has occurred. Conversely, with older children and teenagers you may need to lend an ear for venting of anger, frustration, or fear. With your older children, they are going to be keener on worrying if the events can reoccur in their own school or more local surroundings. You may feel helpless without all of the answers to make your children feel better, but in reality you already are. Children need to know that they have an open communication line with you so that they can be free to express anxieties, rather than repressing them.

No matter the age of your children, make them feel safer by discussing their own safety options and how to react in emergency situations. Young children are still so astute at remember and following emergency and safety drills; reiterate to them that they should always watch for, how they should react and who to listen to for instruction (from their teachers, principle, parents, or trusted adults). With older children, especially teenagers, often times you will find that drills and precautions are no longer held with a grain of salt for them; discuss with them what they would do in an emergency, what they would do, and who that would trust to seek for help. You may find that the drills have worked and they will follow the set precautions step by step. If otherwise, consider speaking with a teacher your adolescent trusts to go over the schools emergency instructions with you and your child.

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > Tips for Helping Children Deal with Traumatic Events

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