A pioneer in mental health care for children
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Helping Kids and Teens Cope With Traumatic Events
Sort out your own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty with other adults first and on an ongoing basis. Kids pick up on attitudes and feelings of their parents so parents need to get support.
Present factual information. Don't assume that kids, especially under age 8 or 9, will really understand what it means. They need you to put the facts into perspective.
Convey realistic confidence in their safety. Parents need to express more certainty with younger children and deal with real ambiguity in older kids.
Watch TV with your kids and keep the amount of exposure within reason. Children will likely be exposed to media images of these tragedies.
Keep to a routine, the usual schedule (e.g., take your kids to soccer practice as usual).
Schedule a formal family meeting to discuss the facts and feelings in a calm, orderly fashion.
Use your family traditions, beliefs and religious practices as well as your extended support network as sources of strength and a way to find meaning and comfort.
If your child shows prolonged signs of stress, seek help from your pediatrician or local mental health center. A certain amount of anxiety is to be expected.
Frightening events cause a flooding of emotion and sorting out feelings usually happens over time. The optimum time to debrief is after 3 days but it is not a one-time event. It is a process that happens over time.