Violent tragedies such as the Boston bombings elicit terror and insecurity in individuals, families and society. These horrific events shake us at our very core and make it difficult to feel safe and secure in our communities. It is also difficult to understand why such a terrible incident would occur. When children are exposed to such an event on television or on Web-based news flashes, it is natural for them to worry about their own communities and their own safety, particularly if the violence occurred nearby or in a neighboring city or state.
The following tips are provided assist parents in helping their children deal with this horrifying event of the Boston bombing.
Talk to your children
Psychologists who work in the area of trauma and recovery advise parents to use the troubling news of violence in one’s community as an opportunity to open dialogue and listen to their children. It is important to be honest and factual about what transpired. Parents should acknowledge to children that bad things do occur, and also reassure them with the information that many people are working to keep them safe, including their parents, local police and government entities.
Young children may communicate their fears through play or drawings. Elementary school children will use a combination of play and speech to express themselves. Adolescents are more likely to have the skills to communicate their feelings and fears verbally. Adults should be attentive to a child’s concerns, and also try to help the children put their fears into proportion to the real risk of violence and danger. Again, it is important to reassure children that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to make their environment — home, neighborhood and community — safe for them.
Parents should also teach their children to be aware of their surroundings rather than oblivious to what is occurring around them as a way to help keep them safe.
Limit exposure to news coverage
Parents should also monitor how much exposure a child has to news reports of traumatic events, including the bombing. It is not beneficial for a child to be repeated exposed to the same traumatic situation as it could foster anxiety and fear. Research has shown that some young children believe that the events are reoccurring each time they see a television replay of the news footage.
Know the warning signs
Most children are quite resilient and will return to their normal activities and personality relatively quickly. Nevertheless, parents should be alert to any signs of anxiety or fear that might suggest that a child or teenager might need more assistance. Such indicators could be a change in the child’s school performance, changes in relationships with peers and teachers, excessive worry, school refusal, separation anxiety from loved ones or from home, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches or stomachaches, or loss of interest in activities that the child used to enjoy.
In addition, every child will respond to trauma differently. Some will have no ill effects; others may suffer an immediate and acute effect. Still others may not show signs of stress until sometime after the event.
A.C.T. will provide free resource information for individuals and families to help promote education. For more information, please contact Dr. Drecun at Dr.Drecun@a4ct.com or (858) 792-3541. You may also visit us online at www.a4ct.com. ACT serves the Del Mar 92014 and Rancho Santa Fe 92067 area.