Ten Tips From Save the Children
By Charles MacCormack, President and CEO of Save the Children
WESPORT, Conn., Oct. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The dramatic images of wildfires wreaking havoc in southern California are having an impact on children not only in the immediate area where the destruction is taking place but also on children throughout the country who are watching the destructive power of the flames on television.
Concerned about the emotional well-being of their children, many parents, teachers, grandparents and caregivers are looking for advice on how to respond to questions from children about unsettling and upsetting events that continue to be shown in the media about the fires and their impact on homes, families and pets.
Children often ask the adults in their lives to explain what they are seeing and reassure them about what will happen next:
"Will everything be OK? Why is this happening? What will happen to the children who have lost so much?"
How do we respond to these questions?
Following 9/11 -- and again after Hurricane Katrina -- Save the Children prepared the following 10 tips to help adults support children through times of crisis. These tips are based upon Save the Children's years of national and international experience and can be used as a guide for adults to support children through this current crisis. The relevancy of different tips may vary upon issues such as a child's previous experience, age and where he or she lives in the world.
1. Turn off the television. Watching television reports on disasters may
overwhelm younger children. They may not understand that the tape of
an event is being replayed, and instead think the disaster is
happening over and over again. Overexposure to coverage of the events
affects teenagers and adults as well. Television limits should be set
for both you and your children.
2. Listen to your children carefully. Before responding, get a clear
picture of what it is that they understand and what is leading to
their questions. Emotional stress results in part when a child cannot
give meaning to dangerous experiences. Find out what he or she
understands about what has happened. Their knowledge will be
determined by their age and their previous exposure to such events.
Begin a dialog to help them gain a basic understanding that is
appropriate for their age and responds to their underlying concerns.
3. Give children reassurance and psychological first-aid. Assure them
about all that is being done to protect children who have been
directly affected by this crisis. Take this opportunity to let them
know that if any emergency or crisis should occur, your primary
concern will be their safety. Make sure they know they are being
4. Be alert for significant changes. Parents should be alert to any
significant changes in sleeping patterns, eating habits,
concentration, wide emotional swings or frequent physical complaints
without apparent illness. If present, these will likely subside within
a short time. If prolonged, however, we encourage you to seek
professional support and counseling. For children directly affected by
this crisis -- such as children who have lost a loved one -- parents
should consult their pediatrician or family doctor and consider
counseling, not just for the child, but also for the entire family. It
may be an important preventative measure. But other children also may
be affected by the images they see and stories they hear.
5. Expect the unexpected. Not every child will experience these events in
the same way. As children develop, their intellectual, physical and
emotional capacities change. Younger children will depend largely on
their parents to interpret events, while older children and teenagers
will get information from a variety of sources which may not be as
reliable. Understand that older teenagers, because of their greater
capacity for understanding, may be more affected by these stories.
While teenagers seem to have more adult capacities to recover as well,
they still need extra love, understanding and support to process these
6. Give your children extra time and attention. They need your close,
personal involvement to comprehend that they are safe and secure.
Talk, play and, most important, listen to them. Find time to engage in
special activities for children of all ages. Read bedtime stories and
sing songs to help younger children fall asleep.
7. Be a model for your child. Your child will learn how to deal with
these events by seeing how you deal with them. Base the amount of
self-disclosure on the age and developmental level of each of your
children. Explain your feelings but remember to do so calmly.
8. Watch your own behavior. Make a point of showing sensitivity toward
those impacted by the disaster. This is an opportunity to teach your
children that we all need to help each other.
9. Help your children return to normal activities. Children almost always
benefit from activity, goal orientation and sociability. Ensure that
your child's school environment is also returning to normal patterns
and not spending great amounts of time discussing the crisis.
10. Encourage your child to do volunteer work. Helping others can give
your child a sense of control, security and empathy. Indeed, in the
midst of crisis, adolescents and youth can emerge as active agents of
positive change. Encourage your children to help support local
charities that assist children in need.
Save the Children, based in Westport, CT, can be reached at 1-800-728-3843, website: http://www.savethechildren.org Our Address: 54 Wilton Road, Westport, CT, 06880
Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Save the Children USA is a member of the International Save the Children Alliance, a global network of 28 independent Save the Children organizations working to ensure the well-being and protection of children in more than 110 countries. For more information, visit http://www.savethechildren.org.
|SOURCE Save the Children|
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