Today I woke to a call from a local L.A. News station asking me to come on TV to talk about how to speak to our children about the LAUSD closure due to today’s terrorist threat. By time we had set up a time for me to come into the station; the event was essentially over. However, it seems we are seeing an increased likliehood of terrorism in our own neighborhoods.
I had considered a reprise of my post from 1/10/2015 on “Surviving Second Hand Terrorist Events” after the Paris events and then again after the San Bernadino event. Not wanting to repeat myself; I let it ride. However, as I was about to go on television to discuss talking to our children I prepared a few bullet points from that post for the news presentation.
As that interview didn’t happen I felt that a focused preparation might be useful to my readers. As such, here are my bullet points.
1. BACKGROUND – WE HAVE A NEW NORMAL
a. In America and in the world terrorism is increasing in tempo.
b. People do and will adapt.
c. In much of the country there are hurricanes or tornados. We in California have earthquakes. Earthquakes are much like terrorist events in that they strike with little (or more often) no warning.
d. As we live in the shadow of earthquakes in California – we now live in a similar shadow of potential terrorist events.
e. The unpredictability of an earthquake makes us feel vulnerable. Planning increases our feelings of empowerment. In our world: a threat is a blessing. Our mayors, our police, our fire departments, and today our schools are here to protect us. They can, with a threat, have a warning. They can then move to protect us.
2. ANY CRISIS EVOKES FEELINGS OF POWERLESSNESS
a. That is the problem in a nutshell – for adults as well as children.
b. That same problem point the way to a part of the cure.
c. Empower Yourself and Your Children
1. Make a plan similar to an earthquake plan.
a. Make a phone tree.
b. Establish a meeting place.
c. Work with your school and make sure your children understand what they must do when they have a school drill.
1. Do this in a CALM and Supportive Way – NO PANIC WHEN TEACHING!
d. LET YOUR CHILD HELP SOMEONE ELSE – or the dog, cat and fish – it is very empowering for them.
e. Watch and discuss the news with them if they are old enough.
f. Discuss social media content with them as well.
g. Don’t judge.
h. Limit TV and Computer exposure – studies show people who watch more than 6 hours a day of television disaster coverage have greater stress reactions than this who were actually involved in the disaster.
i. Express your love!
How to deal with children and irrational fears
a. Age Appropriate Responses. A child out of kindergarten today would be best dealt with by watching cartoons, taking a hike and answering any questions that come up. Explain that what they will hear when they return to school – was actually a day off while the police made sure to protect them.
b. Older children – listen to their concerns and discuss the news and social media chatter with them.
How to deal with irrational fears in your child
Children may regress to earlier behaviors. They may want their “blankie”, they may have trouble sleeping, they may ask incessant questions, they may ask the same question over and over, they may have stomach aches, etc.
a. Wanting their “blankie” – do not shame them. Allow them their security. Love the fears away.
b. Sleeping issues – have “no media time” for an hour before bed and in the morning. Make that time a quiet and loving time!
c. Incessant questions – in a calm and living way answer them all.
d. The same question incessantly – your child is struggling to incorporate the new normal and to overcome the fear that comes with it. It is not that they aren’t listening. You are essentially holding their hand through this process.
e. Stomach aches, etc. – Love those away.
f. Like on an airplane -“Put Your Oxygen Mask on First Before Helping Others.” Get sleep, get exercise, keep your routines, and no drinking or pills. Be a model of what you are teaching.
g. If the problem continues for your child – seek counseling from school counselors or community resources.
h. If the problem continues and seems out of control – seek out a licensed psychologist with training in trauma world – for you and for your child.