How to help your children connect to feeling safe after tragedy
Sheltering our children from tragedy is not the answer; instead we need to utilize this as an opportunity to come together as a family, as a community, and talk. It creates opportunity for a dialogue. Of course, the “right” amount of exposure of kids’ media consumption depends on numerous factors, including the child’s age and emotional maturity. Too much of anything is not usually a good thing. Fear is an appropriate response however, if your child’s fear is moving to the place of panic and it becomes debilitating, chances are it is time to decrease their media exposure and work on ways to help them reconnect to feeling safe. Of course, contact your pediatrician to address any concerns. Below are some steps to help your child connect to feeling safe:
Use your child’s language as this helps you to connect to their emotional age and increases likelihood of a mutual understanding of the topic being discussed.
Come up with a safety plan both in and out of the home and keep it simple for your child to remember.
Communicate with your children to make sure your children, especially the young ones without cell phones, know their parents’ names, address, and phone numbers.
Take the time to answer their questions versus minimizing them. For example, if your child were to ask “what happens if there is a shooting at my school?” Reflect back their concern instead of just trying to make any fear dissipate. Remember, these are very real circumstances and if your child is asking the question, it is for a reason.
Ensure you are not giving mixed messages. Do what you say and say what you do. For example, you can’t talk to your best friend on the phone in front of your child about how scared you are to send your child to school and then tell your child that there is no need for them to worry.
Parent talk is for parents because your children are always listening.
Take a break from the news and other media sources
You should ideally do your own processing before you talk to your kids. Sometimes this is not always possible, but think about having these difficult conversations when the topic is not as emotionally charged.
Let your child feel whatever it is they need to feel and walk through it WITH them. Children can only tolerate as much as the parent is able to tolerate.
Sometimes it is helpful for parents to talk to other adults, even a professional if needed, in order to take better care of yourself and your children. Pass this message along to someone who may be in need.
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