This month’s topic is coping with the holidays. Listen as Susanne and Julie discuss their experience and draw from WinterSpring resources for helping those who are grieving through this difficult time. Listen here!
Our hearts and prayers are with everyone hurt by today’s tragic school shooting. Let’s take special care of the children in grief. Thanks to the Children’s Advocacy Center and Children’s National Medicine Center for this timely information.
In response to a school shooting tragedy, many children may have questions and concerns. The ICHOC offers the following suggestions to help guide parents, teachers, and caring adults to best support children who may be grieving, concerned, or troubled by the school shooting:
Children will benefit greatly from support and caring expressed by the adults in their lives. Create an environment in your home or classroom that encourages respect for each other’s feelings and fears, and allows for a supportive, healing environment.
Let children know that you are available to talk with them.
Let children ask questions.
It is ok if you do not have answers to all the questions. It is ok to let your child know that you do not have the answer but that you will try and find out.
Let children know about the support being provided to students, friends, and families of the victims.
Be aware of children who may have experienced a previous trauma and may be more vulnerable to experiencing prolonged or intense reactions and will need extra support.
Acknowledge the frightening parts of the event.
Explain what happened in words that children understand. Explanations should be appropriate to the child’s age, developmental stage, and language skills.
Reassure children that they are loved and will be taken care of.
Children who have concerns about siblings who are living on a college campus or have concerns about safety at their own school should be reassured and their concerns validated.
Be aware of how you talk about the event and cope with the tragedy. Children learn about how to react to traumatic situations by watching and listening to parents, peers, and the media.
Reduce or eliminate your child’s exposure to television images and news coverage of the shooting. The frightening images and repetition of the scenes can be disturbing for children. If they do see coverage, be sure to talk with them about what they saw and what they understood about the coverage. Make sure to correct any misunderstanding or misinterpretations.
Maintain your child’s routine as best as possible.
For children who are too young to talk or do not feel comfortable talking about their feelings, expressive techniques such as play, art and music can provide additional ways for children to express their feelings and let you know what may be troubling them.
Many behaviors and symptoms of stress are normal for children who have just experienced a trauma. However, if you find that your child is preoccupied with the event, has ongoing sleep or eating disturbances, is experiencing intrusive thoughts or worries, is focused on fears about death, or is having difficulty going to school and leaving parents, your child should be evaluated by a mental health professional. Contact your pediatrician, family physician, or school counselor if you feel that the symptoms are persisting and are interfering with your child’s daily routines.
For more information and resources about children and traumatic stress, please visit our website at www.dcchildrens.com/ichoc. Fact sheets and other resources for parents, schools and professionals are available under the Resource section.
I heard my daughter tell a friend, “Puzzles are the only holiday tradition we have.”
Wow, I suppose that’s true in a way. After her dad died in 2004, I have tried to make the holidays special each year, but haven’t found anything the sticks year after year except our ritual of buying new jigsaw puzzles, bringing out the card table, and setting up for evenings of puzzling. As we sat down the other night, I wondered about this tradition since our loss – the satisfaction of seeing the beautiful images unfold before our eyes as we fit the pieces together, a symbolic road map through grief. Michael’s death brought a sense of chaos and uncertainty to our lives — the pieces didn’t fit in the way they had. Not much about the holidays made sense to me, either. What got us through year after year was the patient step by step, trying and failing, trying again and succeeding, bringing a chaotic mess of little pieces into something organized. And now, I’d say that life does make sense. This year we picked easier puzzles and we’ve already completed two. I suppose the easy puzzles reflect that life is easier this holiday season. We are blessed to have each other and a tradition that has helped us through this difficult time of year.