Tread Lightly. It is tempting as the story unfolds to follow every moment on the news and social media. Don’t. Turn it off. If you want, check in at the top of the hour for updates. Older kids are getting fatigued into numbness and youngsters often think the replay images are new occurrences.
Talk even though it’s tough. We hope that if we don’t bring it up, our children won’t know what happened. Yet once they are school aged, if we don’t speak up, they will hear the news from a hundred other sources. Don’t fret about the words you use, simply start the conversation. State your truth, “This is hard for me to tell you…”
Speak in Sound Bites. Give children brief facts and information. Then listen. Listen to the nuance of their confusion, questions and comments. Follow their lead. Then (re)assure them. Give them space to weep and wonder. Listen for the emotions that are under their words, assure them that all of their feelings matter. Let them to know that you are here. That together you are bigger and stronger than any disaster. That you will be present for them, no matter how overwhelming life feels.
Stay the Course. We all thrive on routine, and this is especially true in times of trauma. Keep children on their regular schedules. Familiarity breeds comfort.
Look at Each Step. Yes, the media will focus injury and death. But we can talk about life. And all the days each person had before today. And all the people who loved them, and whom they loved. And how, even after someone is gone, they are not gone. They are within us.
Remind Them of all the Helpers. Show children how many responders there are. Doctors, nurses, emergency personnel, teachers, faith leaders, community members—everyone involved is supported by a dozens of adults. As Mister Rogers said “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.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” Look at all of the helpers here.
Become a Helper. Look for those who need support. It may mean donating resources, time or expertise. Help your kids find ways to contribute. When we give of ourselves, we learn we are capable. When we realize we can overcome, our resiliency for future events is stronger. By finding their own voice in this tragedy, they learn that they can make a difference in the world, no matter what events unfold.
Would you like additional support or help? For yourself, family or community? Contact me here.