When a disaster of this kind occurs, the shock reverberates in us all from within our own families, friendships workplace, schools local and global community.
As parents we may wonder how best to support our children and teenagers as details unfold.
Media exposure of these events can inform as well as distress us. The extent to which children and teenagers are effected by these events depends on whether they are directly involved (or not involved ) through their own network, or whether they have been exposed to trauma in the past.
A Secure Base
From early babyhood parents can develop a secure attachment through protection from danger and providing comfort and reassurance when it is needed. The parent’s response to a baby. growing child or teenager’s worries shapes their confidence and ability to explore the world and interact with others.
Of course there are times when a parent is not always ‘switched on’ to their child due to other concerns however a ‘good enough’ parent will mostly listen and be emotionally available to their child when needed or revisit an issue their child has raised when they have ‘space ‘ to discuss it.
TIPS for supporting your child after a disaster
1/ Limit or stop TV and newspaper / internet coverage especially when distressing images or issues are featured.
2/ Answer their questions about it according to their age on a needs to know basis (just like sex education )
3/ Ask them what they think and feel about it and correct any confusion
4/ Reassure them of their own safety and the safety of friends and family
5/ Offer favorite family activities and DVD’s
6/ Discuss the help offered to those directly affected if concerns are raised about this.
7/ Avoid distressing adult conversations about this in their presence
Tips For Older Primary and Teenagers
1/ Use this as a lively discussion of VALUES – what do they think matters the MOST here? Retaliation? Finding those responsible? Care for those left behind? Australian casualties or all nationalities?
2/ Show them a measured approach to encourage reflective responses and empathy for those effected
3/ Help them to identify and evaluate the different responses from key spokesmen and politicians. Whom do they admire and why ?
4/Ask them to share what they are seeing about this issue on facebook twitter etc
Remember – as parents you are central to your child’s and teenager’s wellbeing.
P – protect
A – answer questions as required
R – reassure
T– think together
S -secure base
– Carolyn Aston
Child/ Adolescent Psychotherapist / Mental Health Clinician , Peaceful Schools Program Director CASSE Australia