If you’re struggling to cope with the graphic details and images you’re exposed to in the media lately (cyclones, acts of terrorism and violence), imagine what must be going through the minds of your children. Children contend with these images according to their age and development.
Little ones will often mix what is real with make-believe, so they aren’t really aware of the “disaster” but they can see that people are upset and they hear what people are saying. They’re also aware that the same images are being shown over and over, so they may believe the scary event is taking place over and over.
If your little ones want to talk about the ‘disaster,’ don’t dismiss them, let them talk, they rely on you as their mum to help them through the tough times of their life.
Watch out for any unusual behaviour.
I remember the story of a preschooler after the Brisbane flood in 2011. She refused to drink water. After talking to her, her parents discovered she was traumatized by all the images of rushing water she had seen on television.
School age children can understand more about what’s happening than little ones. They may also want to talk about the event, so give them that space. Remember, they will be hearing varying versions of the same event from other children and adults, so be aware they know the truth – talk honestly with your kids, and listen to their feelings about what they are seeing and hearing.
Teens 12-17 will understand on a deeper level than younger kids. They may want to talk to their peers more than you. However, they still count on you for love, understanding and support.
Some ways to help your child
Dealing with questions
- Be honest without going into too much detail when answering their questions;
- Be aware of the level of understanding your child holds, and answer questions at that level;
- Follow your child’s lead, answering only what they’re is asking and be available as more questions may arise down the track.
What to do with feelings
- Assure kids that feelings are okay and normal;
- Listen to your kids and encourage and allow them to voice their feelings in an environment of trust, understanding and love;
- Give lots of hugs and physical comfort.
Watching television news
- Watch the news alongside your children. Inviting them to ask questions, or if you notice them being affected by what they’re witnessing – talk about it;
- Be careful your children don’t watch a piece over and over. This can either make them more stressed or fearful, or it can numb their feelings around the event.
Look after yourself
- Notice your own feelings;
- If you feel you’re not coping, ask for help.
If you believe your child isn’t moving forward after a traumatic event. Or, they’re acting out of character; don’t be afraid to look for some outside help.
Finally, I encourage the medium of Art. Bring out some drawing paper and crayons and allow your child (whatever age) to express what they’re feeling on paper. Sometimes words are too difficult to find.