Appalling events have rocked our world this past week. As adults, we to listen to the horrific details, feeling sick inside and scared that a deranged gunman could be just around the corner in our own neighborhood.
But what about our children who are too you to grasp what happened? How can we protect them? How do we keep them from experiencing the trauma second-hand?
1. Only give children as much information as they can handle. You know them best, so choose what they hear and see wisely.
2. They are going to listen to rumors on the playground at school so give them accurate information, but only as much as they can understand.
3. Don’t traumatize them by allowing them to watch the news over and over.
4. Talk with your children:
a. Help them know that sometimes people make bad choices.
b. When tragedy happens, we have a lot of feelings: sadness, fear, anger.
c. We get our feelings out by talking.
d. Words may not seem good enough, but we use them anyway.
5. Allow children to have their feelings. Don’t shame them for crying or being afraid.
a. Hug them when they are sad.
b. Help them rewrite their fears to something positive.
c. Let them get their anger out by punching a pillow or kicking a pile of dirty laundry.
d. Any art medium is a good release for feelings: sand, clay, paint, crayons.
6. Cuddle your child.
As I worked in a therapeutic setting with adults and children who had experienced trauma as a way of life, I learned two truths that I think apply to all of us. Love will nurture and heal us. It chases away hate. Light is stronger than the dark and will always defuse it. We heal as we fill our lives with love and light.
Love your children and make your home a safe haven for them—a place to make sense out of a troubled world.
Christy Monson, M.A., L.M.F.T., Retired
Christy Monson is the author of Love, Hugs, and Hope: When Scary Things Happen, illustrated by Lori Nawyn, and releasing as an eBook next week by Familius.