Sunday, January 17, 2010

Children and tragedy stress disorders

Everywhere you turn there is stressful news about Haiti. I know we are all praying that their suffering will be met with compassion and organized help.

Be careful however, to remember that your child is watching your response to the crisis. Children are like hidden cameras. They are always watching their parents. Even when you don't think they are paying attention or listening to what you say - they are recording information. When there is a disaster, parents need to be aware that their children are watching even closer. Until a child has practiced how to properly process distressing information, there is a potential for great fear, misunderstanding and in some cases stress disorders. It's important that parents use the following method to help their children feel "safe".

1. Your child will process information first by listening and watching your body language. Be careful to stay calm, make sure your child sits close to you or even on your lap and make sure your "energy" in the situation helps your child feel safe.

2. Even when children are a bit older, information about disasters can be distorted. Watch your child's face and body language for any signs of distress.

3. You are your child's interpreter. When your child hears newscasters going on and on about suffering, they may wonder if they are going to be required to suffer as well. Don't try to hide the news. Instead, accept it in a calm manner and interpret or explain it to your child. As interpreter, you need to explain where the suffering is in relation to your child, why it may not happen to him, what caused the suffering and how the relief efforts will ease their suffering. For example, explain how and why earthquakes happen and how people can survive them. Once your explanation is over you will need to bring your child back to a place where he can feel safe and yet also be compassionate about others.

4. Be diligent in pointing out the good. Help your child look on suffering with compassion but also see the good that can be accomplished by those who choose to help with the relief efforts. Point out all the items that are being sent to that area and how it will help those in need.

5. Empower your child. Help them to do something to relieve the stress they might be feeling. Help them write a card, send a donation or simply pray that others will be able to relieve the suffering.

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1 comment :

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