Have we found a way to ease our fears from another tragedy? How much more can we handle? Many of us are still healing from 9-11. Now that hurricane Katrina has struck, many of us are asking, “What’s next?”
How do we help ourselves and our children cope with such tragic events, especially when these events are so unpredictable?
Sure, we can give money and even volunteer at our local red cross and salvation army facilities. You can even assist those in need by providing your home for many of the victims’ families to stay until they return to their homes. But how do we heal emotionally from all this?
1. Talk to your children, especially if they have questions. Do not overwhelm younger children with too much detail. Do not expose younger children to visual images that are terrifying from the television or in the newspaper.
2. Some younger children may have a difficult time expressing their feelings verbally, so ask them to draw a picture about how they are feeling. For older school age children and teens, they can benefit by writing about how they feel.
3. Reassure your kids that what they are feeling is normal and that they did nothing wrong to cause what happened.
4. Daily physical exercise and other activities can help children and adults release their tension (and help to sleep better at night).
5. Continue to provide structure to children’s schedules and days.
6. Recognize that a tragic event could elevate psychological or physical symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pain, chest pain, restlessness, having a withdrawn affect, difficulty eating, anxiety (in the form of anger) and insomnia.
7. Children, even teens, may regress and do things that they did when they were younger, such as sucking their thumbs, bedwetting, or acting dependent upon their parents. This is a healthy temporary coping strategy, but talk to your healthcare provider if it persists for several weeks.
8. Use this opportunity to work with children on their coping skills.
9. Have your child seen by health professional if you notice signs of depression, persistent anxiety, recurrent pain, persistent behavior changes or if thy have difficulty maintaining their routine schedules.
10. The main thing that will help adults cope is to talk about your concerns, your fears and anxieties to friends, family or health professionals. Be aware of your own symptoms such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, headache or joint pains.
Exercise, get outside in the fresh air, meditate or pray.
You can only help others if you have strong coping skills yourself.
Remember that this can be an opportunity to build future coping and life skills as well as bring your family unit closer together.