When threats are made against our children in Charlottesville, it is upsetting. Here are some tips to help support your family’s mental health.
Children look to the adults in their lives to understand their world and how to respond, especially during upsetting and traumatic community events. Even children as young as 2 and 3 pick up on family, social, and community stress. Kids are very good at noticing emotional changes in their caregivers, but do not know how to make sense of what is happening on their own. Talking with and supporting your child can help them cope better during this time.
Possible Ways Youth May be Impacted:
- Media exposure. Children are impacted by what they see, particularly when seeing familiar places as the setting for violence and offensive symbols.
- Possible Community Violence. The community is trying to prevent and prepare for potential violence.
- Reawakened community division, including hateful actions and words toward minority groups, can impact children of all ages.
Signs of Stress and Anxiety:
- Fearfulness: Increased fear, clinginess, and difficulty separating from caregivers.
- Somatic complaints: headaches, stomachaches, tiredness.
- Sleep Difficulties: nightmares, trouble falling asleep, or not wanting to sleep in own bed
- Regression: Acting younger than their age.
- Changes in Play and Activities: Young children may act out their fears or what they have seen in their play. In older youth, changes in interest in activities or social connections.
- Trauma History: Youth with a past trauma or exposure to violence, mental health concerns, or special needs may be more vulnerable to the impact of these events.
- If your child’s behavioral and emotional changes do not begin to improve after a few weeks, you may want to talk with a professional such as a Pediatrician, School Counselor, Spiritual Leader, or Counselor.
Tips for Supporting Kids
- Set aside time to talk: Find a time when you are calm and not distracted to talk with your child about what is going on. Tell the truth, avoid graphic details, use age-appropriate language, and speak in simple, clear ways.
- Focus on Listening: Children need to be heard, even when you do not have all of the answers. Ask about their thoughts and feelings, and focus on responding to their questions or concerns.
- Model positive coping: Monitor your own stress level so that you can be calm and in control around your child. Find healthy ways to cope and express your own emotions when your child is not nearby. If your child wants to talk when you are upset, schedule a later time to follow up when you are ready.
- Limit Media Exposure: Minimize or restrict TV and social media exposure of graphic and violent content. Talk with your child about what they see, including how older youth engage in social media.
- Plan positive activities: In difficult times, kids especially need to feel connected and to engage in comforting activities.
- Reassure Safety: Emphasize ways that adults are keeping them safe, including Helpers in the community, without making unrealistic promises.
- Maintain normal routines and rules: Consistency and structure provides stability and comfort for kids. Talk with your child ahead of time about schedule changes.
- Positive Expression of Values and Emotions: Difficult times can provide rich opportunities for sharing your values with your kids. Older youth may benefit from helping activities that allow them to express their values. See back for healthy ways to express emotions.