Monitor the amount of TV watching and limit exposure to upsetting media coverage.
Frightening, dramatic and sad images are often repetitively displayed in newsprint, on television or radio. Watching these kinds of scenes may fixate the images of violent death and increase the child's feelings of vulnerability.
Ask your children what they have heard or what other kids are saying - give them accurate information and correct any misinformation.
Gear the information to their age and refrain from focusing on the graphic details of the incident. Children may ask what homicide means. While it is not necessary to go into detail, you may want to say "It means that someone killed another person; it was not an accident."
Find out what concerns your child has and take them seriously.
Children often feel more vulnerable than adults because of their size and their limited emotional resources and experiences. It is important to take their concerns seriously and offer reassurance. You can ask children "After hearing about these kinds of things, what do you think most kids worry about?"
Tackle the tough questions like, "Why did this happen?"
Explain to children "we may not know the exact reason why this violence occurred, but it is clear that the person that did these things was very troubled and was not able to think clearly about how to deal with their thoughts and feelings."
Keep to your regular daily routine.
Routine provides us with a sense of security. The routine of school, after school activities and sports are important to mitigate the feeling that the "world is out of control".
Spend time together as a family.
Increase opportunities for play, fun and relaxation. Connecting with friends and family members helps children feel there is a safety net of people around them.
Allow some time for extra comforting.
Extra hugs, cuddling, and story telling (even middle school youth enjoy having their parents read to them), are helpful. After these kinds of incidents, children and teens may have nightmares or fears. It might be helpful to allow the child to sleep in close proximity to the parents for a bit of time. Sleeping bags or cots could be used for a few nights.
Be sure to process your own feelings.
Children will take their cues from the adults around them. It is important for the adults to take care of themselves and their feelings as well as their child's. If you are feeling upset, anxious or fearful it will be important for you to find a trusted adult to talk to. Avoid talking about your fears in front of your children. Consider reaching out to your local mental health organization or public safety officials.
Monitor your child's behavior and seek assistance if necessary.
While the signs and symptoms of stress can be normal in the early days and weeks following a crisis, if they do not abate or they increase, additional help may be required. If you have concerns about your child, do not hesitate to contact your school's counseling department, Care Plus, or your local community behavioral health center.
The experts at Care Plus are available if you are feeling anxious over events such as this, Hurricane Sandy, or any other event that may be adding stress to your life. Just give us a call: 201-986-5000.
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