Taking Care of Emotional Health
How to Help Your Child Cope
- Be available for your kids. Children need comforting and frequent reassurance that they’re safe. Make sure they get it.
- Don’t dismiss their concerns. Be honest and open about a tragic event, but keep information age-appropriate. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” –that’s part of keeping discussion open and honest.
- Monitor what your child watches on TV. Take a break from the news coverage and make time to read a favorite book together or do another activity – drawing, watching a movie, or writing a letter, for example – during news shows.
- Encourage children to express their feelings through talking, drawing, or playing.
- Monitor your own emotions around your kids. Try to maintain a calm and positive attitude.
- Reassure your child that he or she is safe at school and that you and the adults at school have a plan for emergency situations. Tell them where to reach you at all times.
- Remind your child that if they feel the need to share their feelings with an adult while at school, that school staff (teachers, counselors and others) are available to talk with them.
- Encourage your child to go about their daily routine at school, and maintain your own daily routines as much as possible.
Should I Worry About My Child’s Reaction to World Events?
Your child may be feeling a great deal of stress about what he or she is seeing in the news and hearing from others. Because a child may not know how to voice his or her fears to you, you should watch for changes in a child’s behavior now or in the future. Some of these are:
- Persistent fears related to the incidents (such as fears about being hurt or being permanently separated from parents)
- Sleep disturbances such as nightmares, screaming during sleep, and/or bedwetting which persist more than several days after the event
- Loss of concentration and irritability
- Change in activity level
- Behavior problems, such as, misbehaving in school or at home in ways that are not typical of the child
- Physical complaints (stomachaches, headaches, dizziness) for which a physical cause cannot be found
- Withdrawal from family and friends, sadness, listlessness
- Preoccupation with the events of the incident
Adolescents — Some Special Concerns:
- Teens and other children with existing emotional problems such as depression may require careful supervision and additional support.
- Monitor their media exposure and information they receive on the Internet.
- Adolescents may turn to their friends for support. Encourage friends and families to get together and discuss the event to allay fears.
- Be aware that some adolescents may express their feelings through risky behaviors.