- By Becky Huntley
From the Eyes of a Child
Whether it happens far away--bombs and shootings on the tv news--or close to home--grandpa rushed to the hospital, children are watching. Watching and wondering: "What about me?" "Will I be safe?" "Who will take care of me?"
• Some children will ask outright: what is happening?
• Some will misbehave to get your attention, to see if the rules of the world still stand.
• Some will be more clingy or demanding.
• Some will not ask but make up their own ideas from things they have seen or bits of conversation they overheard. Their fantasy is often full of misinterpretations.
What is a parent to do?
Turn off the news. When the same scene is shown over and over again children think it is happening over and over again.
Stay as calm as you can. Kids will get their cues from you.
Ask what they know or heard. Starting here can help you see their understanding and help you clear up any misunderstandings.
Give child-sized explanations. "The tube in mama's arm is helping her because it is giving her medicine." "Some people were hurt and other people are running away to stay safe."
Focus on the positive. "The doctors and nurses are spending extra time with daddy." "Fire fighters and police are there to help everyone."
Reassure them that they are safe. "Papa will take care of you." "This happened far away and not in our neighborhood."
Keep a normal routine. Kids who get their regular naps and meals will be easier for everyone to handle during a crisis--and they are comforted by the sense of routine knowing that their world has not changed too much.
Older children may want to do something to help. Helping them find a specific task may help them feel less powerless. "Someone will need to gather the mail while mom is ill. Could that be your job? " "The people who were hurt live far away--would you like to do something to help the people in our town?"
Older children, along with all of us, may ask: "Why did this happen?" Sometimes there simply is no answer. Instead of trying to find answers, we can use this as an opening for talking and listening...and gathering our loved ones close.