Hello Reader. There have been recent traumatic events in the news where children and youth were affected, but what makes an event traumatic? When our sense of safety is shattered, we experience trauma. So what do we adults do when something shatters the sense of safety for the younger ones around us?
Here are a few tips for caring for your children and youth:
- Stay close – “The antidote to trauma is safe, loving relationships.” Tim Clinton, President American Association of Christian Counselors. Stay in close proximity to your children and youth, particularly if there is fear or anxiety
- Share tenderness – Fear makes us vigilant while tender touch from a safe and trusted loved one brings calm. Hold a hand, brush their hair, be present emotionally.
- Say what’s true – not knowing the truth or not hearing the facts creates more anxiety. Provide anchors to peace by telling them things that are age appropriate, “Not everyone in the world is bad.” “You’re safe now.”, “That was very scary and now we are safe.” Share the promises of God’s Word with your kids. Pray with them AND for them. Help them reconcile bad things with a good God.
- Provide time to talk – there will be questions, so engage in age-appropriate discussions. Talking about things typically does not perpetuate anxiety, often it reduces it. Deal with your own questions and experiences with an adult, perhaps one skilled in trauma recovery so you can be a safe place for your kids.
- Prepare for triggers – what children and youth see in the world and on the news affects them deeper than it does for adults. Realize that the slightest sound may remind their brains about the trauma and don’t react to their being triggered. Prepare for when they might react by exploding, crying, or reverting behaviors. “That sound remind you of the scary event? It was scary for me too, but we’re ok now.” “That was scary for you, wasn’t it? I’m with you. Do you want to leave/a hug/talk?”
- Plan for process –both the process of the healing and the process of sameness. The healing will take grace, truth and time. Lots of time mixed with grace and truth. When you keep up the sameness of your everyday it will create safety, but only when you also provide the other things mentioned above too. Just returning to everyday sameness without the other things mentioned above will not be helpful. But family stability when all these others are integrated will help the healing.
Tips For the Family:
When a traumatic situation strikes a family member or the whole family, the entire family experiences the aftermath. “Families need practical suggestions and role models for how they can communicate about traumatic events, and the family changes that can originate following such events.” from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc. http://www.icisf.org
It is very important to receive information about normal psychological reactions that may be experienced by family members over time. Then together as a family decide how to handle the traumatic reminders when they come. Request my “Grieving As A Community” and/or “Practical Steps After A Critical Incident” for a few practical ideas.
Together recognize and care for differences
Its’ important for the adults to recognize the differences in ways femininity and masculinity influence a person’s response and process. Men and women do process trauma and grief differently as do children and adults.
- Keeping a written “menu” of options of how to deal with certain triggers may help give permission and freedom for individual process that is respectful within the family.
- Also including certain themes to discuss as a family and as adults with other adults will allow for understanding of each others unique responses and processes. (themes might include: the way grief comes for me; how I feel physically when scared/grieving; what I want to do instead of grieve; what you can do with me to grieve (called mourning); etc.”
Dear readers, we will continue to see news stories and experience trauma, grief and loss in this world but we can choose to respond with grace, truth and love well over time. Together we are better and sharing together brings healing. When we involve God in the healing, we find Him with us, for us, and bringing good to us.
Know when to get help and where to go
Equally important to these tips is knowing when to get help from trusted and skilled professionals.
- For adults, that might mean talk therapy or trauma counseling.
- For children and youth, that might include those things too, but art and play therapy might be more helpful.
- For everyone in the family, establishing a God-honoring routine with healthy nutrition is key.
- Everyone who experiences trauma could do with some healthy nutrition, healthy life rhythm, and a brain wellness check-up from places like Neurogistics.
- Sometimes it’s also helpful to visit with a medical professional. Remember different medical professionals are trained in different focuses so our western doc’s are stellar at knowing the right medication, while an eastern or functional medicine doc knows foods and supplements.
- At any point if your child or youth mentions suicidal thoughts, don’t freak out, but do talk it over with them to understand their context. Then discuss creating a team with a medical or mental health professional who can help them with those thoughts.
I hope these few tips are helpful for you and your family.
- What tips could you see yourself using?
- If you work with or serve children or youth at work or in ministry, how could you talk with the parents about these tips?
Connect with me and let me know how it goes!
Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs a counseling center in Austin, Texas and with husband David Lawrence co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. She’s also a certified Group Crisis Interventionist through International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com or www.renue.me
Photo Credits: Photo from Pexels.com, Graphic on Canva