Advice columnist Steve Almond has a typically provocative piece on WBUR’s Cognoscenti today: “Why I’m Not Talking To My Kids About The Paris Attacks.” He and his wife decided, he writes, that “we have absolutely no interest in exposing our kids to the sort of panic-stricken coverage whose central aim is the profitable stoking of anxiety.”
But for parents whose children have been exposed to the news from Paris, here are some extensive and sage tips, broken down by age group, from child psychiatrist Gene Beresin, director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, re-posted with permission from The Clay Center’s website.
By Dr. Gene Beresin
Our hearts go out to the families of those who lost their lives or were injured in the recent terrorist acts in Paris.
At times like these, amid our shock, grief and fear, we need to be particularly attuned to the impact such events have on our children. Kids of all ages have questions and various emotional reactions — compounded all the more by the footage and commentary they may be seeing and experiencing. It is abundantly clear from sound research that children and teens can develop significant stress responses to what they are exposed to in the media.
While we want to shield our kids from the horrific images and stories of the terrorist attacks, it is increasingly hard to create an impervious shield. Full protection is impossible, and we should instead be prepared to help them in the wake of yet another mass killing.
While the world may feel to us increasingly unsafe, it’s our obligations as parents and caregivers to provide comfort, reassurance and guidance to our kids.
Here are some tips for all of us as we navigate this tragic time.
For Parents And Caregivers
Let’s face it: We’re all scared. These terrorist acts leave us feeling afraid, angry and insecure. However, we as adults need to find our own way of coping; after all, the more secure we feel, the better we are able to help our kids.
• We need, in times like these, to engage with others. Adults as well as kids require a sense of community to help us feel connected and protected. So, don’t worry alone; talk about what you are feeling with your partner, spouse and friends. It’s our relationships that hold us safely in this world.
• Make time for self-care through relaxing activities such as reading, listening to music or exercising.
• Pace yourself in terms of the amount of information you choose to consume. Sometimes, it’s best to just disconnect completely.
• If you have specific questions about your kids, call your pediatrician, primary care provider or mental health professional for advice.
Universal Impact On Children Of All Ages
Children need answers to three fundamental questions:
• Am I safe?
• Are you, the people who take care of me, safe?
• How will these events affect my daily life?
Parents should expect to answer these questions over and over again. For those with toddlers and preschool children who may not yet be able to express their concerns in words, it’s still important to reassure them that everyone is safe, and that life will continue in a normal fashion. Continue reading