|Children are most vulnerable during this time to the effects of the violent
images they see on television. It is important for parents to pull themselves
away from the news coverage, turn the television off, and talk to their
families, according to Dr. Steven Pierrel, a psychologist and an associate
professor with the department of family and community medicine at Baylor
College of Medicine.
"We need to listen to the concerns of our children and learn what meaning
they are attaching to these events," Pierrel said. "It is our responsibility
to talk with them, share our perspective and provide a place of comfort and
security as they come to grips with these tragic events."
There are several ways parents and others who care for children can help
alleviate the emotional consequences of trauma, including the following tips
provided by the American Psychological Association.
- Spend more time with children and let them be more dependent on you
during the months following the trauma - for example, allowing your child to
cling to you more often than usual. Physical affection is very comforting to
children who have experienced trauma.
- Provide play experiences to help relieve tension. Younger children in
particular may find it easier to share their ideas and feelings about the
event through non-verbal activities such as drawing.
- Encourage older children to speak with you, and with one another, about
their thoughts and feelings. This helps reduce their confusion and anxiety
related to the trauma. Respond to questions in terms they can comprehend.
Reassure them repeatedly that you care about them and that you understand
their fears and concerns.
- Keep regular schedules for activities such as eating, playing and going
to bed to help restore a sense of security and normalcy.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry also recommends the
following guidelines for minimizing the negative effects of watching the
- Make sure you have adequate time and a quiet place to talk if you
anticipate that the news is going to be troubling or upsetting to the child.
- Ask the child what he or she has heard and what questions he/she may have.
- Provide reassurance regarding his or her own safety in simple words
emphasizing that you are going to be there to keep him or her safe.
- Look for signs that the news may have triggered fears or anxieties such
as sleeplessness, fears, bedwetting, crying, or talking about being afraid.
"Parents should remember that it is important to talk to your child or
adolescent about what he or she has seen or heard," Pierrel said. "This
allows parents to lessen the potential negative effects of the news and to
discuss their own ideas and values. While children cannot be completely
protected from outside events, parents can help them feel safe and help them
to better understand the world around them."
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