Every year on Stand For Children Day, celebrated on June 1, thousands of Americans raise awareness about the issues faced by children in the U.S. American youth are expected to handle bigger and bigger issues.
With all the media coverage surrounding the fatal shootings that seem to be happening daily, do you ever wonder how much our children are taking in — how much they understand about what is going on? Have you ever thought about the impact these events have on our children? As parents and caregivers, how do you respond to such events? Do you have open conversations with your children?
For many of us, it can be difficult to find the right way to move through these conversations or respond appropriately. Adult support and reassurance is the key to helping children through a traumatic event. “As parents and educators, it is often hard to try and understand in the immediate moment what a child is feeling,” says Project Harmony Executive Director Gene Klein. “However, it is absolutely necessary and worth doing so.”
When children experience trauma, watch it on TV or overhear others discussing it, they can feel scared, confused or anxious. Young people react to trauma differently than adults. The following will help parents, caregivers and teachers understand how to respond in a helpful way.
Tips for Talking with Children and Youth of Different Age Groups
Preschool Children, 0-5 years old:
-Give these very young children lots of verbal support and affection.
-Take a deep breath before holding or picking them up, and focus on them, not the trauma.
-Get down on their eye level and speak in a calm, gentle voice using words they can understand.
-Reassure them you still care for them and will continue to take care of them so that they feel safe.
Early childhood to adolescence, 6-19 years old:
-Nurture children in this age group. Ask your child or children in your care what worries them.
-Offer comfort with gentle words, a hug when appropriate or just a calming presence.
-Spend more time together. Returning to school activities and normal routines is important too.
-Excuse them from chores for a day or two and after that make sure their tasks are age-appropriate and make them feel useful.
-Support children spending time with friends or having quiet time to write or create art.
-Encourage children to participate in recreational activities so they can stay active.
-Address your own trauma in a healthy way and avoid taking it out on the children.
-Let children know that you care about them, do something special together and make sure to check-in with them in a nonintrusive way.
Understandably, this is a stressful time for all of us, but Connections at Project Harmony has created an easy reference guide on what to watch out for in different age groups.
Project Harmony is a nonprofit, community-based organization that has served more than 56,000 children during the past 25 years by providing a child friendly environment in which specially-trained professionals work together to assess, investigate, and resolve child abuse cases.