Traumatic images and stories of death and destruction following both man-made and natural disasters can cause great concern in young people. This occurs, not only for those directly affected, but children with a perceived threat of danger. Here are some tips on how you can help them:
1-Turn off the TV. Overexposure to coverage affects viewers.
2-Listen to your child. Before responding, get a clear picture of what it is they understand. Emotional stress may occur when one cannot give meaning to dangerous experiences.
3-Psychological first-aid. Talk about all that is being done to protect children directly affected by this crisis. Let your child know that should a crisis occur; your primary concern would be their safety.
4-Professional help. For those directly affected by the crisis, counselling for the entire family should be considered.
5-Expect the unexpected. Every child will experience these events differently. Be alert to any significant changes in sleeping patterns, eating habits, concentration, wide emotional swings or frequent physical complaints without apparent illness
6-Older teenagers, because of their greater capacity for understanding, may be more affected by stories. Provide extra love, understanding and support.
7-Find time to engage in special activities.
8-Role-models. Children learn how to cope with events by watching how adults deal with them. Explain your feelings but remember to do so calmly.
9-Return to normal activities. Children almost always benefit from activity, goal orientation and sociability.
10-Encourage volunteer work. Helping others can give your teen a sense of control, security and empathy.
(Based upon work by ‘Save the Children’)
Author: Collett Smart, Psychologist & Educator