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|Quick reference medical handouts used
by Pediatric offices
The Tragedy at Fort Hood: Helping Your Children Cope
Over the past several
years, our children have heard about many events that
are probably very frightening to them: 9/11, the sniper
shootings in the Washington, D.C., area, war and suicide
bombings in the Middle East and, most recently, the
shootings at Fort Hood in Texas. According to experts
these tragedies can cause very real anxiety in children,
even when they are not personally affected by them.
The need to feel safe and
protected is a basic need of childhood. And the
increased violence that has occurred over the past years
doesn't change that need. It only means parents need to
work even harder to make sure their children feel safe.
Here are some tips on how parents can help ease their children’s
Q: How do I talk
to my children about the Fort Hood shootings?
Children around 5 and younger don't need to know
about things like this. Wait for them to ask you
about what happened. If they never ask, continue
business as usual. Older children are likely to
approach you with questions. Or you can initiate a
conversation by saying: "I know you're hearing and
seeing a lot about what's happened at Fort Hood.
How does this make you feel?" You don’t need to
prepare a big speech trying to explain it all to
them. Wait for them to ask you questions, and then
answer each question with reassuring information
that reflects your family's values and history.
Q: My child seems
so frightened that he could get hurt from something like
this at his school. How do I reassure him?
Tell him: "It's normal to feel frightened. If I was
your age, I'd be scared, too. But I'm older than
you. I've seen lots of bad things like this happen
before, and lived through them. It seems
frightening, doesn't it? As if you could be a victim
too…I felt that way when I was your age too.” Tell
him you will always do everything you can to keep
him safe and that if you thought it was dangerous to
go somewhere you wouldn't let him go.
Q: Should I let
my child watch the news?
In this case, definitely limit it. It brings the
event, and all of the emotions it engenders, right
into your home. And when we sit glued to the news
coverage of a shooting it tells our children "this
is something Mommy or Daddy are really worried
about, so I should probably worry about it, too.”
Watch the late news, after the children are in bed.
Q: Are there
other things we should or shouldn't do as parents?
Keep information factual and accept children’s
expressions of anger and frustration. Help them
recognize and name the emotions they are feeling.
They may need extra attention. However, it also is
important to try to keep to a normal routine.
Children fare better if life is stable and
predictable, helping them keep calm and feel
reassured. And be careful about what you say in
front of children. Kids pick up on everything and if
you are lamenting the terrible state of the world
and saying things like "I'm afraid to go anywhere
any more," children will start to feel the world is
indeed a scary place.
Q: But what if we
really do feel like that?
You don't have to share all of your feelings with
your children. For an analogy to illustrate that:
Pretend you're driving a car down an unfamiliar,
twisty, turning road in the dark. Should you say to
your child: "We're going into some dangerous
territory and I'm not sure if I can handle it? I may
need you to grab the wheel every once in a while?”
No you should not. Children need to be children.
They need to know you are sitting confidently in the
driver's seat. To continue the analogy, it would be
much more loving to say: "It's going to be dark for
a while. Here's your blanket. Why don't you snuggle
up for a while and I'll wake you when we get there.”
Let them know that you are still in control and
that, no matter what, you will protect them just as
you always have.
Q: How do I
explain the kind of people who would do something like
Go back to your family history. How have you
explained bad things in the past? Be consistent and
age appropriate. With little children, stay away
from phrases like "bad guys" because to them that
can mean the bully at school, causing even more
fear. Use terms like, "bad things happen sometimes
in this world." After age 7 or 8, children may need
to have more in-depth explanations. Encourage your
child to talk, and listen carefully to her so you
can understand her perceptions of the event. Help
her identify and label her feelings. Then address
each issue in a way that reassures your child and
reflects your family values. Avoid being judgmental
or generalizing about alleged perpetrators based on
race, nationality, religion, place of origin, etc.
Q: What signs
should I look for that will tell me my child is having a
tough time coping with this tragedy?
Until things calm down and the news coverage
subsides, it will be normal for children to show
signs of worry and fear. Just like many adults, they
may have trouble eating or sleeping. Two weeks from
now, if your child still isn't eating or sleeping
normally, or shows other warning signs such as
extreme irritability, weepiness, lethargy and
reluctance toward or fear of activities she once
enjoyed, call your pediatrician.
Hospital of The King’s Daughters, 4/17/07-posted
04/18/2007 on kidsgrowth
As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as
medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your childs pediatrician.
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