In the recent months and years we have been faced with extreme issues of tragedy:
· The attacks of 9/11
· The tsunami in Asia
· The extreme floods in New Orleans.
It is hard enough for us as adults to understand these tragedies; for children they can be extremely overwhelming. But children do not just look at large disasters like these as tragedies. Sometimes, simple things in their lives are tragic to them, even if we as adults don’t view them that way.
A child that loses a parent is, of course, going to view it as a tragic event. But a child who finds out his parents are adopting a new brother or sister can view that as a tragedy also. As adults, we need to hone in on our children’s feelings and help them work through their issues of tragedy and loss even if it is hard for us to understand their views.
Some important ways to help a child deal with their feelings of loss can include:
Talking—Let your child talk about what is bothering them. Don’t just talk about the specific thing that they perceive as loss. Let the child talk about all aspects of their life right now. Ask questions and let them ask you questions.
Reassure—Don’t just tell them everything is going to be fine. Talk with them about how things will be different and how by working together you can make everything ok. Children need to know the specifics. Let them explain what will make them feel like everything is ok.
Routine—Try to keep their regular routine intact. Even if some things have to change, try to keep as many routines as possible.
Relax—Simple relaxation exercises like going for a walk, or even just sitting in a quiet place with their eyes closed and taking some deep breaths can help children feel more in control of their emotions.
Fun—Kids need to have fun no matter what kinds of trauma or loss they are dealing with. Offering a child some markers and blank paper can really help them unload their feelings. Also, think of physical activities like sports or just playing catch. It is easier for a child to open up when they are concentrating on catching a ball and not so worried about answering questions correctly or saying the right or wrong things.
Pray—with them and for them. This is something that is one of the most powerful things you can do with your child. Let them see you pray and include prayer before you eat and at bedtime, no matter what their age— kids need to know God is watching over them. Attend services with them and help them prepare for the day they are on their own and have to face hard times and decisions as adults.
Children have to deal with stress, trauma, and loss in today’s world. They just do it differently than adults. Instead of concentrating on trying to get children to tell you what they are feeling, concentrate on providing an open communication environment. I take my daughter out on a “girl’s night out” each week, just her and me for some fun, dinner and time away from work and school. Even if she doesn’t feel like talking when we start, it happens naturally and she looks forward to this one-on-one time with mom.
Often, just feeling comfortable and being able to ask questions will relieve the stress a child feels around an incident they are dealing with. Remember, although there are huge tragedies in this world today, a child may still view things in their own life as a tragedy or a loss even if we as adults would not view it that way.