How to deal with, talk to kids about tragic events.
Naperville Sun HealthAware column:
How to make sense of tragic events
December 18, 2012
Violence in today’s world can make us feel unsafe and insecure, and even if the event doesn’t affect us personally, many of us can feel a sense of loss or outrage for the innocent victims and their families. And sometimes people find it hard to get over these tragedies.
“Tragic events can stir up many emotions, such as anxiety, stress, helplessness and anger,” says Dr. Susan Ahmari, psychiatrist with Linden Oaks Medical Group. “While all of these reactions are normal, if you don’t address them, you can jeopardize your health.”
Ahmari suggests some ways to help cope with tragedy:
Talk about it. Reaching out to supportive friends and family will help you realize you’re not alone. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, a crisis counselor can help.
Take care of yourself. Healthy eating and exercise will help your body deal with stress. Do activities you enjoy and find relaxing.
Avoid excess. Avoid using alcohol or drugs as a way of dealing with your emotions.
Resume your routines. Getting back to your daily routines can be a good method for regaining a sense of control.
Get involved. Engaging in positive activities like group discussions and candlelight vigils can help promote comfort and healing.
“The most important thing is to find something that makes you feel good, and in control of your life,” Ahmari says. “A woman I work with said she sat on the couch for days after 9-11, just watching the news and crying. One day she decided to print the list of victims’ names off the internet and made a plan to run one mile in honor of each person who was killed. It was a great way for her to feel like she was doing something for the victims and their families.”
Violence in today’s world also can make kids feel unsafe and insecure. Kids are hearing about tough issues at increasingly earlier ages, often before they’re ready to understand all the pieces of complex situations. However, you have a unique opportunity to talk with your child about these issues first, before everyone else does.
By being a consistent, reliable, knowledgeable source of information, you can help raise healthy, confident, secure adolescents who are capable of making smart decisions to protect themselves and know how to resolve conflicts peacefully.
Dr. Shannon Shi, a psychiatrist with Linden Oaks Medical Group, offers some tips that may help:
Encourage your child to express his feelings. Kids usually feel better when they can talk about their feelings. Help him out by asking questions like “How do you feel? What worries you the most?” Encourage honesty and openness, and listen for clues about hidden feelings or worries.
Reassure your child. Stress that the incident is rare, but don’t make false promises such as “This will never happen to you.” Instead, offer your love, support and guidance. Let her know you are here to protect her to help keep her safe. In addition, remind her that the police are also looking out for your family’s safety.
Monitor the media. Monitor and limit the amount of television your child watches. If your child sees disturbing footage, his anxiety may escalate.
Pay close attention to your child. If your child was involved or a witness to violence, pay close attention to your child’s behavior. If you notice anything unusual, it may be a reaction to stress, fear or trauma. Learn to recognize warning signs such as a change in sleep habits, irritability or withdrawing from friends or family, and seek professional help from a behavioral health specialist.
For a free mental health assessment, call the Linden Oaks Help Line at 630-305-5500.
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services