By Alison Bell
The world is reeling after the attacks on Paris last Friday and the related recent terrorist activity around the globe. The horror and unpredictability of the events have shaken all of us, including our children. How to help our kids cope in the aftermath of such tragedy? Hillsides staff offers these tips:
Listen to your kids. Allow your children to talk about their fears, concerns, and feelings, recommends Hillsides Education Center counselor Jill Anderson. “They may be surprised, angry, upset or afraid. They want someone to listen to them and acknowledge what they are feeling.”
Be open and honest. “Help kids feel empowered by providing them with age-appropriate information,” says Cindy Real, director of Hillsides South Pasadena Family Resource Center. Limit their exposure to any media coverage of the event, however, which can exacerbate fears. Instead, she suggests, “Make plans to do something as a family that feels good and is enjoyable versus watching the news repeatedly.”
Stress what is being done to help. “Let kids know that leaders from around the world are working very hard to prevent these types of attacks from happening. Emphasize how people are helping each other and showing their support for one another in this time of need,” says Anderson.
Encourage them to help others. “Involving your child in a community project, such as a clothing or food drive that provides assistance to others can offer them a sense of empowerment and security,” says Anderson.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Symptoms of stress, anxiety, or depression may be common following a traumatic event. “Turn to professionals a (school counselor, local mental health services, a pediatrician) for assistance if your child or family members are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or difficulty coping,” advises Anderson. There is also a Disaster Distress Helpline that is free and confidential. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text 66746.
Be alert to the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Here are some symptoms to look for that may require professional help, says Real: Intense fear, helplessness, nightmares, confusion, disorganized or agitated behavior, difficulty concentrating, recurrent and intrusive distressing thoughts, avoidance of thoughts or feelings associated with the trauma, avoidance of people or places, irritability, or hypervigilance.
Alison Bell serves as the communications and development associate in Hillsides advancement services and is an author and writing instructor.