Since the horrible tragedy that took place in Newtown, CT, our hearts have remained full of sorrow remembering those that were lost. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of those whose lives were senselessly taken, as well as all those whose lives were forever changed by this unthinkable event.
There is no escape from the ceaseless news coverage of this tragedy. Our print, television, radio and internet news outlets have had countless stories retelling the details of this awful event. No matter the age, one can’t help being affected in some way by what happened. We must be especially mindful of the impact it can have on the youngest among us – our children and grandchildren. We do our best to protect them from information like this, but with the news bombardment that comes along with an event of this magnitude, unfortunate details are bound to get through.
Darcie Miller, Orange County Commissioner of Mental Health, reminds us to use caution when talking about this, and similar traumatic events, around our young people and limit their exposure to the continuous barrage from the news media. Keep in mind, as well, that your children may hear things from their peers who may be more aware of current events than your children. In those instances, you may need to manage the message to ensure that they receive correct and age appropriate information.
To help parents and guardians talk with and help children and youth cope after a traumatic event, or even a disaster, like we saw with Hurricane Sandy recently, Commissioner Miller offers these tips from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
• Give them a lot of cuddling and verbal support. Focus on them, not the trauma. Speak to them on their level in a calm voice using words they can understand. Let them know that you love them and care for them so that they have a sense of safety and security.
• Ask your children about their worries and concerns. Ask for their input on what they need to cope with the situation. Offer comfort through gentle words, a hug, or just spending time together. Initially, spend more time with the children, but then start resuming school and home routines.
• After a day or two, give children age-appropriate tasks and provide opportunities for them to feel useful.
• Support children spending time with friends or having quiet time to write or draw.
• Encourage children to participate in recreational activities and playing with others.
• Serve as a role model to your children, addressing your own trauma in a healthy way. It’s okay for them to know you’re sad or see you cry, but try to avoid intense emotions.
• Be a good listener, and allow children to ask questions.
• Be careful not to pressure children to talk about the trauma if they’re not ready.
Finally, if you, your child, or a loved one needs assistance to cope with this, another traumatic life event, or behavioral or emotional issues, don’t be afraid to seek assistance. Orange County is fortunate to have a number of outstanding mental health and wellness programs.
For more information, visit www.orangecountygov.com or call 291-2600. The 24-hour Mobile Mental Health Team is available at 888-750-2266. Help is also available through the Mental Health Association in Orange County Helpline at 1-800-832-1200.
Until next week, I wish you good health and happiness.