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Helping Your Child Cope With Tragic World Events


At any given time in your community, country or somewhere in the world, events and situations are occurring which may trigger fear, anxiety and worry in your child.

Whether it's an earthquake, news of a shooting or scenes of a tower on fire, the images of such events played repeatedly on television and computer screens create emotions and reactions in children.

Some people choose to shield their child from these tragic events and pretend they haven't happened. The problem with this tactic is that they did happen and the child will somehow learn about it whether through friends, teachers or playing around on their own computer. Then they have questions with nowhere to get answers. Those questions fester and negative emotions and feelings arise.

As a psychotherapist who addresses the beliefs and thoughts held by the mind, I feel is very important to acknowledge troubling world events with children in effort to avoid a potentially negative set of core beliefs from engraining in their mind.

How do you help your child through such experiences?

1. Reassure safety. Tell your child that the event is happening far away from them and constantly reassure them that they are not in harms way. (If you find yourself in the middle of a natural disaster continue to offer reassurance to your child. They are in need of and wanting to feel safe and protected.)

2. Remind them that the situation is not occurring over and over again. Television is famous for replaying images of events from many different angles. It is important to remind your child that the event is not occurring again and again; rather they are watching a recording of the situation which happened once.

3. Be honest. When your child asks you questions about the situation be honest even if that means saying, "I don't know," and then go find the answer. Sugar coating these events will do more harm then good.

4. Find the joy in the situation. Sit with your child and help them to see the joy and good coming forward from the tragedy. Notice how people come together to help those in need. Plan how your family can offer assistance. Rejoice and celebrate with your child the miracle stories which emerge.

5. Turn off the TV. Once your child has seen a clip of the disaster there is no need for them to watch it again. The more they watch these images, the deeper the pictures, sounds and emotions of the event are embedded into their mind. This can prove to be counterproductive later on in life.

6. Allow your child the opportunity to express themselves. Acknowledging and putting words to their feelings goes a long way in releasing the fear and worry created by these situations. While your child is expressing themselves listen to their words. Watch for thoughts and beliefs such as, "The world is a scary place. I am not safe." Monitor these thoughts and address them accordingly. Avoid the potential to have such thoughts become your child's core beliefs.

7. Watch the news on TV with your older children. Sitting down with older children as they learn about world events will help them feel more safe and secure. It will also allow you the opportunity to address any questions or concerns which surface immediately.

Events like 911, tornados; flooding and attacks will unfortunately continue to occur. Creating an atmosphere for your child to understand them and deal with the emotions which arise will go a long way in creating an inner atmosphere of calm and security.


Esther Bartkiw is a Core Belief Engineering Psychotherapist, Speaker and Writer. She specializes in working with belief systems and transforming negative and limiting beliefs held by the mind.
www.changefromwithin.ca