We listen to the news and are stunned that young children have been so callously and ruthlessly murdered. We want and need to protect our own. This is instinctive.
The circumstances of their murders make an easy identification for parents who have sent their children to just another ordinary day at school never expecting tragedy. We sorrow for their innocence lost to mass murder.
As we struggle with our own identifications, grief and empathy, we wonder what the heck do we tell our kids..Surely, they will pick up some of this from the news or classmates.
1) As with all tragedies and in working with those suffering with post-trauma as I do, emphasize that this is a very terrible, but also very rare incident. The rare part is essential. This will create some ease and provide reassurance that our communities are safe.
2) Answer any questions as directly as you can. If you appear upset, do not deny this. Let your children know that this is a very sad thing and that your sadness will pass. Children need to know that sadness and grief can be faced without overwhelming or everlasting effects.
3) Do not stay glued to the tv when your children are present. The repetition of disastrous images can impact with a secondary traumatization to those who have viewed the images although they are not direct victims of disaster.
4) Express gratitude that your family is safe and strong. If you children have a curiosity or fear, help them to become active in a meaningful way. Get together donations, say prayers (if you believe in this) or participate in some active meaningful way. Actions provide a sense of mastery, underscore gratitude and provide a model for giving to others and helping those in need. It reminds us that we do not have to remain helpless in the face of disaster.
5) if the questions keep coming, yes all adults are not good and do not always do good things. However, we do all we can to protect our kids and keep them safe. Let them know that we always will.
6) Those children and adults who are experiencing any intensity of anxiety, depression or grief can call the 800 Aetna insurance number for free on-phone counseling. You do not need to be an Aetna subscriber to receive this free service. Bless all of our children in these times and remain safe, Mary Rose Paster, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist, Glen Cove.