It was one week ago today that a terrible tragedy occurred on one of south Florida’s High School campuses, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. We each are experiencing different emotions from this incident ranging from shock and dismay to extreme sadness to outrage.
Today, our favorite School Psychologist, Dr. Valerie Allen, brings us some words of wisdom in helping our children cope with just such an event.
After a Disaster: What to Say to Children
Often referred to as An Act of God, a Natural Disaster, or Civil Unrest, it is an unexpected event resulting in loss and suffering. It raises to the level of trauma that is outside realm of typical human experience. Victims can be directly or indirectly impacted and harmed by the event itself as well as the aftermath.
A wide range of emotional and physical responses can be expected especially by children who turn to the adults in their lives for reassurance. Emotionally it is not unusual to become angry, fearful, anxious, or depressed. Physically there may be headaches, stomach upset, lack of appetite or overeating as well as sleep disturbances.
Parents need to support children by establishing a sense of safety and security to help them process their thoughts and feelings. Some strategies which are helpful include:
- Placing the event in the proper context
- Offering accurate information about the possibility of this type of event in their community
- Return to normal routines while being flexible
- Listen to the child and observe his or her behavior for anything out of the ordinary
- Accept children’s emotional responses without judgment
- Explain there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel
- Encourage expression of emotions through discussion, journaling, art, or music
- Monitor and limit exposure to media on television, radio, online, newspapers, etc.
- Focus on resiliency and compassion
- Identify various ways people are supportive of each other
- Allow them to join in disaster relief efforts
Take time to discuss the ideals of caring and empathy for all people. Consider themes of diversity and equality among all human beings.
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Dr. Valerie Allen is a child psychologist in private practice n Melbourne, FL. She is the author of two children’s books, “Summer School for Smarties” and “Bad Hair, Good Hat, New Friends.” Oh yes, she has also raised six children! DrValerieAlen@cs.com DrVAllen.com
Thank you, Dr. Allen, for sharing this important information with us today. And everyone take a moment and hug your children a little closer today.