Help Children Deal with Society's Violence
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Health. Discussion »
Dr. Amy West, Southern Cheyenne, assistant professor of
clinical psychology at the University of Illinois
CHICAGO The horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that left 20 children and 6 adults dead at the Sandy Hook Elementary School has jarred the nation.
With media covering the events, school systems reacting to the tragedy, and the heavy coverage of the event on the internet, parents and grandparents are concerned about how to properly deal with the topic of violence in society.
Dr. Amy West, Southern Cheyenne, assistant professor of clinical psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, passed on some helpful tools to the News Network that were authored by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network:
Things You Can Do for Your Children
- Spend time talking with your children. Let them know that they are welcome to ask questions and express their concerns and feelings. You should remain open to answering new questions and providing helpful information and support. You might not know all the answers and it is OK to say that. At the same time, don't push them to talk if they don't want to. Let them know you are available when they are ready.
- Find time to have these conversations. Use time such as when you eat together or sit together in the evening to talk about what is happening in the family as well as in the community. Try not to have these conversations close to bedtime, as this is the time for resting.
- Promote your children's self-care. Help children by encouraging them to drink enough water, eat regularly, and get enough rest and exercise. Let them know it is OK to take a break from talking with others about the recent attacks or from participating in any of the memorial events.
- Help children feel safe. Talk with children about their concerns over safety and discuss changes that are occurring in the community to promote safety. Encourage your child to voice their concerns to you or to teachers at school.
- Maintain expectations or "rules." Stick with family rules, such as curfews, checking in with you while with friends, and keeping up with homework and chores. On a time-limited basis, keep a closer watch on where teens are going and what they are planning to do to monitor how they are doing. Assure them that the extra check-in is temporary, just until things stabilize.
- Address acting out behaviors. Help children/teens understand that "acting out" behaviors are a dangerous way to express strong feelings over what happened. Examples of "acting out" include intentionally cutting oneself, driving recklessly, engaging in unprotected sex, and abusing drugs or alcohol. You can say something like, "Many children and adults feel out of control and angry right now. They might even think drinking or taking drugs will help somehow. It's very normal to feel that way - but it's not a good idea to act on it." Talk with children about other ways of coping with these feelings (distraction, exercise, writing in a journal, spending time with others).
- Limit media exposure. Protect your child from too much media coverage about the attacks, including on the Internet, radio, television, or other technologies (e.g., texting, Facebook, Twitter). Explain to them that media coverage and social media technologies can trigger fears of the attacks happening again and also spread rumors. Let them know they can distract themselves with another activity or that they can talk to you about how they are feeling.
The Office of Minority Health furnished the Native News Network with the following links to help deal with violence:
Going Back to School After a Tragedy
Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters
posted December 18, 2012 6:30 am est