It is a sign of our times that every day there is reporting of new tragedies. Fires, floods, war, mass shootings, suicides, and civil unrest, are front and center in the daily news.
Here are 5 helpful suggestions on how you can help your children during such times.
- Watch your own response and provide reassurance.
Children need to know that adults in their lives are there to help and protect them. Reassure them that they are safe and loved and that they can bring you their questions and worries. Listen to their fears and answer their questions. Offer simple, straightforward, age-appropriate information. Pay attention to your own reactions and maintain a calm and well-regulated way. Even when you don’t have all the answers, sometimes a simple answer as “I’m sad about the news, and I feel bad about what happened, but I love you, and I am here to care for you” is all your child might need to feel better.
2. Create an environment that allows safe emotional expression.
Allow your children to feel sad, scared, or angry; those are normal feelings for troubled times. Sometimes big feelings overwhelm children but allowing them to accept all of their emotions helps them manage overwhelm.
3. Look for the helpers.
The timeless advice from Mr. Rogers is comforting and gives hope. Kids and adults are more distressed when they feel helpless and passive and more hopeful and comfortable when taking action. Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers when you see scary things in the news, and you will always find people who are helping.” It’s reassuring to know that so many caring people are doing all they can to help others in this world.
4. Give your child extra comfort and physical attention.
Hugs, snuggling, and regular routines go a long way toward providing inner security and a sense of normalcy. Limiting their exposure to TV and the internet is also helpful.
5. Let your child know if you are helping in any way.
Making a donation, emailing support, or taking action can help children learn that adults can take many different active roles, and we don’t have to be helpless in a crisis.
At times of crisis and sadness, we all need each other more than we think, and little things of kindness, compassion, open-heartedness, comfort, and connection will make a big difference. Helping your child feel better during a crisis is empowering and can make you feel better.
Marina Blalock AMFT