Posts Tagged ‘Coping’

6 Messages For Children After a Tragedy

April 21, 2013

Courtesy of educator and child advocate Pam Allyn:

1. Most of the time, people are trying to do the right thing.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

This message from Mr. Rogers is particularly helpful for a child who needs a strategy to counteract the horror of the image he sees on television or right before him. Day after day, friendly people give up seats on a train to someone who needs it more, share a gift with someone or run in the direction of danger to help, as many did in Boston. Tell these stories to a child. Put the spotlight on the helpers.

2. Anger is OK. Sometimes it is very useful.

For a child, anger is a complicated emotion. Children are sometimes told it’s not an appropriate feeling. But they feel it nevertheless, and wonder what to do about it. We can help children to not only manage those feelings, but convert them. Consider heroes like Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi, who have become known over the years for their peaceful, non-violent solutions to world problems. In fact, each of them burned with anger and then turned this anger into real action. Read aloud to your child from great speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. and by other heroes who spoke out against injustice. Let them see the real human effort involved in converting anger to action.

3. The world is safer than it sometimes seems.

When a tragedy happens, a child’s world is shaken. Nothing feels safe. It is important to help children re-frame their world so as to remind him or her of the daily ways we live so securely. We travel, eat, sleep, talk, make friends, go to work and school all many, many times and all around the world every single day and a million times a year. These are all blessings we can count on. Use this opportunity to give your child a notebook or make a file on the computer for your child to keep a diary of the day’s events, and to savor in the ordinary. Reminders of how ordinary every day generally is are very comforting to a child who wants to count on the steadiness of the world and believe in it again.

4. The world is genuinely beautiful.

The television images are gruesome after a tragedy. It is very challenging to keep those images from children, although we can try. There is an antidote and that is the beauty of the world itself. Collect such images with your child, in photos and in writing. Create photo book collections of trees, flowers and people’s faces. Remind your child these things exist, and some are of nature and some are made by man, but that we can practice each day to find beauty all around us. That takes practice too.

5. Learning how to read helps us make sense of the world.

The child who is overwhelmed by images can feel powerless. This is an opportunity to talk about the power of words. Reading gives us control, giving us ways to find what we need on our own and also makes us happy. Show children examples of this. Learn more about emergency workers and what they do in their jobs. Learn together about ways to solve problems. Find out new information about different parts of the world. Read picture books that comfort, soothe and distract.

6. Our simple and every day acts of kindness will make a difference.

Doing simple acts of kindness can counteract the awful feeling we all get after a tragedy that we don’t know how to help. Keep a notebook together called “Daily Acts of Kindness” and fill it each evening with things that have touched you both, or things you both have done for others. These actions are comforting both for the giver and the receiver.


Click on the link to read Advice for Talking With Your Kids About the Boston Marathon Attack


Click on the link to read A Teacher’s Guide to Talking to Students About the Newtown School Shooting

Click on the link to read Explaining the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to Children

Click on the link to read Helping Kids Cope in the Aftermath of Sandy

Click here to read ‘Helping Our Children Make Sense of Natural Disasters’.


Helping Our Children Make Sense of Natural Disasters

March 16, 2011

Below is an article from Michael Grose’s Insight on how we can help our children cope with Natural disasters. After last week’s catastrophe in Japan, the earthquake in Christchurch and the floods in Australia, I thought it was timely to make educators aware of it.

Help your children make sense of natural disasters

By Michael Grose

The Queensland floods and the Victorian bushfires continue to wreak incredible havoc on so many people’s lives and will no doubt leave an indelible imprint on our collective psyches. These two natural disasters will be brought into our living rooms via the media over the coming days and weeks.

As adults we all want our children to live carefree lives and keep them from the pain and even horror of tragedies such as natural disasters. In reality we can’t do this.

So what is a parent, teacher, or other caring adult to do when the natural disasters fills the airwaves and the consciousness of society? Here are some ideas:

  1. Reassure children that they are safe. The consistency of the images can be frightening for young children who don’t understand the notion of distance and have difficulty distinguishing between reality and fiction. Let them know that while this event is indeed happening it will not affect them directly.
  2. Be available and ‘askable’. Let kids know that it is okay to talk about the unpleasant events. Listen to what they think and feel. By listening, you can find out if they have misunderstandings, and you can learn more about the support that they need. You do not need to explain more than they are ready to hear, but be willing to answer their questions.
  3. Help children process what they see and hear, particularly through television. Children are good observers but can be poor interpreters of events that are out of their level of understanding. Sit with them. Ask them questions to ascertain their understanding.
  4. Support children’s concerns for others. They may have genuine concerns for the suffering that will occur and they may need an outlet for those concerns. It is heart-warming to see this empathy in children for the concerns of others.
  5. Let them explore feelings beyond fear. Many children may feel sad or even angry with these events so let them express the full range of emotions. They may feel sadder for the loss of wildlife, than for loss of human life, which is impersonal for them.
  6. Help children and young people find a legitimate course of action if they wish. Action is a great antidote to stress and anxiety so finding simple ways to help, including donating some pocket money can assist kids to cope and teaches them to contribute.
  7. Avoid keeping the television on all the time. The visual nature of the media means that images are repeated over and over, which can be both distressing to some and desensitizing to others.
  8. Be aware of your own actions. Children will take their cues from you and if they see you focusing on it in an unhealthy way then they will focus on it too. Let them know that it is happening but it should not dominate their lives.
  9. Take action yourself. Children who know their parents, teachers, or other significant caregivers are working to make a difference feel hope. They feel safer and more positive about the future. So do something. It will make you feel more hopeful, too. And hope is one of the most valuable gifts we can give children and ourselves.

Children’s worlds can be affected in ways that we can’t even conceive of so adults need to be both sensitive to children’s needs and mindful of what they say and how they act in front of children.

In difficult times, it is worth remembering what adults and children need most are each other.

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