Saturday, December 15, 2012

And More...

More tragedy for children, for families, for a school, and community.  It is heart-breaking.  Several people have said, "It seems like more and more bad things are happening.  How do we help our kids?"  And I'd add, "How do we help ourselves?"

Last night, along with perhaps many of you, I saw the picture and quote of Fred Rogers going around Facebook that said...

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping."

Maybe that is a step, a place to eventually see some sliver of hope in such an awful event where so many precious lives have been lost in an extremely horrific way.

In a more practical sense, if there is such a thing at a time like this, I hope all Hansen families received the e-mail yesterday listing 10 important things about how to talk to your kids about scary things.  For a hand-out detailing these tips, please click below.

The other thing I want to share with you is a fact sheet from the American Counseling Association that describes responses kids may display according to age.  Here it is...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Helping Children Cope

We have all been thinking of the Evansdale tragedy, paining for those who loved Lyric and Elizabeth, as well as hugging our kiddos a little tighter since the news last week.  I wrote a blog post this summer about helping kids deal with scary things, but I thought I would post again with an updated version of suggestions.  I hope it helps make these tough conversations a little bit easier.

1) Explain the event as simply as possible and without graphic detail (i.e., two girls went missing and some hunters found their bodies; they died).  You might tell them how people are tying to help (i.e., the police are working hard to figure out what happened to the girls).

2) Remain as calm and reassuring as you can, but do not lie.  The likely explanation here is that someone purposefully hurt these children.  Tell your kids that many people in our world are safe, but there are some who are not.  "It looks like Lyric and Elizabeth were harmed by one of these unsafe people."

3) Share your feelings (i.e., this is very sad).  Tell your child that being upset, scared, angry, or not feeling anything at all, are all understandable.  Let them know that they can come to you with their feelings.  Be close and comfort one another.

4) Encourage your child to talk and ask questions.  It's okay to say, "I don't know."  Sometimes, that is the most honest answer.  Don't be surprised if they ask some of the same questions multiple times.

5) Let your child's questions be your guide.  Answer as directly and simply as you can.  Do not give more information than they ask for.  Don't surprised if older children seem to want to know what may seem like "gory" details of what happened.  This is common developmentally as kids try to make sense of death and/or a traumatic event. 

6) Limit news exposure.

7) Keep up your usual routine as much as possible.  If children come to you with snip-its of feelings or questions and then run off to play, that is okay.  Kids tend to do what they need to do to work through difficult things.

8) Understand that children may play out the event, which in many cases, may help them deal with it.  It is not cause for concern unless your child seems "stuck" in this type of play.

9) Realize that some regressive behaviors for a short period of time are not uncommon (i.e., being extra clingy, not sleeping well, having more fears in general, and not wanting to separate from you, etc.).  Acknowledge the fear.  "I know this is scary."  Then talk about what we can all do to help ourselves with our fears.  "Remember, you have strong caregivers and teachers who are going to do everything they can to keep you safe."  Tell children the practical things we do to keep them safe.  Most children will work through their fears, but if symptoms like this persist or your child has changes in eating or sleeping habits, nightmares, or significant mood or behavioral changes, consult with a mental health professional.

10) Keep in mind that traumatic events or losses often trigger past traumas or grief feelings so children may be talking again about things that have happened to them even long ago.

This is tough stuff.  It's understandable if you feel like keeping your kids a little closer to home or changing some of your "walk to school" routines in order to be extra safe.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about your children, please do not hesitate to call, e-mail, or set up an appointment to visit.  I am here to help.  Together, our community will get through this difficult time.