1. Validate your child's sadness:
Your child needs to know that feeling sad is a normal and okay reaction when something sad or scary happens. “What happened is really sad. Let’s talk about what makes you feel sad about what happened.” Too often we try to distract from sadness or make it go away. Allowing your child to experience sadness helps them learn that they can be sad and come out okay on the other side.
2. Validate your child's fear:
If your child is feeling fearful after hearing something on the news or at school: “That does sound really scary. I understand why you would feel afraid when you heard about that happening.” Of course we want to comfort children and we don’t want them to live in fear. We also want them to feel heard. We don’t want them to feel like being scared isn’t something they can talk to us about. Being scared isn’t shameful - and in many cases, being scared makes sense.
3. Be ready for tough questions:
“Why do bad people do things to hurt other people?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” These are just some of the many questions a child may have during a tragic event. Decide how you are going to engage with your child when they ask these questions. A simple answer like “I don’t know” may leave your child feeling unheard. If you don’t have a answer to the question your child has, try “I’m not sure, but let’s take some time and talk about this together.” Or “I’m not sure but let’s ask [a moral or spiritual authority].” By taking your child’s questions seriously, you demonstrate to them that you take them seriously and care about what they care about.
4. Don’t let your child live out of fear:
Just like being scared is okay, living scared isn’t. Living stressed and scared is tough on the body of anyone - especially a child. High levels of cortisol impact our immune system strength, can cause anger outbursts and other health and behavioral issues. Help your child learn how to find ways to conquer their fear and support them and encourage them as they do brave things.
5. Know when to seek additional help:
Sometimes grief, loss or worry can become too much for a child and parents to handle on their own. If after a few weeks you child’s behavior doesn’t return to normal or you fear that their behavior is harmful to themselves, seek outside help. Oftentimes counseling is a great place to start.
If you or a loved one are interested in the counseling process, please contact us at 706-310-9046.