Not In My Neighbourhood!
“Not In My Neighbourhood!” Helping Families Deal with Traumatic Events*
Our daily news is often fraught with unspeakable events that appear to be more and more violent and toward those that are the most vulnerable – our children. As these events hit closer and closer to home, the more we are bombarded with images, news footage and discussions on social media. As adults, we are able to process these events from a cognitive standpoint despite their devastating outcomes. When our children witness these images, see the news footage or overhear discussions, without the same cognitive development as adults, it can be quite devastating.
How do we protect our children from these random acts of violence that are so prevalent in our daily lives? How do we not allow our fears to impact our children? I clearly recall a couple of incidents within my community including 9 -11 and the possible release of a sex offender into our school district that absolutely impacted me personally. I was baffled insofar as what to share with my young children. I wanted to protect them and alleviate their fears while keeping my own fears from impacting them. I can’t imagine how recent events that were acts involving very young children have impacted today’s families.
What is abundantly clear is that during any time of catastrophic event, parents and their children need the support of their community. One of the things that I strive to do within my Family Coaching Practice is to continually build my support network of experts that can help my families with such events. Here is a list of recommendations that I believe are the foundation of support:
- Protect yourself as parent first and foremost. You’ve heard the old adage “put your oxygen mask on first” if a plane is going to crash. Parents need to find their support network through their work peers, friends, or other parents. If parents still find the situation unbearable, it might be worth a visit to your family doctor to find a mental health professional to support you through the trauma. Trauma whether direct or indirect can have detrimental affects on certain people and sometimes we just need a little help. It is also important that the parents do not to engage in the hype or sensationalism of the event especially if it has deeply affected them.
- Children 0 – 6. Turn off and tune out; turn off the radio/television and tune out from social media. At this age, children are observers of life and are deeply influenced by parents, siblings, and peers. Children of this age don’t need to know all that is going; it is too much for them to grasp from a cognitive standpoint. Limit their access to these events, and encourage family time and play, which fosters development and can be very therapeutic for the entire family! If parents so desire, focus on teaching children of this age safety rules both at school and in the home that are age appropriate and fun.
- Children 7+. At this age, it is much harder to control what they are hearing or seeing because they spend a lot more time with their peers. It is important that you be open and honest with them when they make inquiries about the situation. If you believe your child is struggling, seek professional help for them. Your family doctor is a great place to start to get the support your child needs. At this age, you can actually invite people from within the community to visit your child’s classroom or community group such as law enforcement, fire safety professionals or even therapists or professional speakers that have been through similar situations. It is important to follow your child or teenagers lead in dealing with these types of catastrophic events.
- Children involved with the trauma. If children have been through the traumatic situation themselves, it is imperative that as parents we take full advantage of any of the support programs that are available to that child, parent or sibling. If a program or support initiative is not provided, you can contact your local School Board, Police Department, Children’s Services, Parenting Support group or local church or community group who can assist in getting the right people to start this type of program. The bottom line is, we all want the same thing – happy and healthy parents and children. * originally published online in 2013