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  • Hot Topic: Coping with Violence and National Tragedy

    Author: CYFERnet School-age, Teen and Parent/Family Editorial Boards, December 2012

    With the world sending their thoughts to Newtown, Connecticut in the aftermath of the most recent school shooting, the CYFERnet team is mindful that many professionals and volunteers working with children, youth, and families at risk want to lend a hand to those impacted by this tragedy. With the goal of putting information at the fingertips of those planning a response, we recommend the following resources.

    school violence


    For guidance on how parents and caretakers can help their children, excerpted from the Little Listeners in an Uncertain World: Coping strategies for you and your young child after traumatic events resource developed in response to 9/11:

    The primary role of parents is to protect children. Young children do not need to be told about traumatic events that they have no way of understanding. Keep the following in mind:

    • Turn off TV and radio news reports; don't leave newspapers lying around.
    • Ask friends and family not to discuss the scary event around your child.
    • Maintain your child's regular routine.

    Behaviors you might see in young children who have been exposed to a traumatic event:

    • Increased clinginess, crying and whining
    • Greater fear of separation from parents
    • Increase in aggressive behavior
    • More withdrawn and harder to engage
    • Play that acts ouy scary events
    • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
    • More easily frustrated and harder to comfort
    • A return to earlier behaviors, like frequent night-wakening and thumbsucking

    What you can do:

    • Respond to your child's need for increased attention, comfort and reassurance. This will make him feel safer sooner.
    • Pay close attention to your child's feelings and validate them. Ignoring feelings does not make them go away.
    • Help your child identify her feelings by naming them (scary, sad, angry, etc.).
    • Offer your child safe ways to express feelings, such as drawing, pretend play, or telling stories.
    • Don't discourage your child's play because you find it disturbing. Young children work through frightening events by reenacting them through play. If your child seems to be distressed by his play, comfort him and redirect him to another activity.
    • Be patient and calm when your child is clingy, whiny, or aggressive. He needs you to help him regain control and feel safe.
    • Answer children's questions according to their level of understanding: "Yes, a bad thing happened but we are keeping you safe."


    A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope
    National Association of School Psychologists
    Available at: http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/terror_general.aspx

    Purple Wagon
    Purdue Extension. A website for those interested in helping parents and children explore and discuss terrorism, war, and peacemaking.
    Available at: http://www.extension.purdue.edu/purplewagon/

    Talking with Children When the Talking Gets Tough
    Purdue Extension
    Available at: http://www.extension.purdue.edu/purplewagon/PARENTS/Resources/TalkChildrenTalkGetsTough.pdf

    How to Talk to Kids About Violence: A Response from Parenting Press
    Available at: http://www.parentingpress.com/violence/intro.html

    Helping Children Exposed to Shocking Events
    Hand in Hand
    Available at: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/news/32/64/Helping-Children-Exposed-to-Shocking-Events

    Helping Children After A Disaster
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
    Available at: http://aacap.org/page.ww?name=Helping+Children+After+a+Disaster§ion=Facts+for+Families

    Terrorism, TV and Our Children
    Penn State University
    Available at: http://betterkidcare.psu.edu/TerrorismNewsRelease.html

    The Tragedy at Fort Hood: Helping Your Children Cope
    Kids Growth
    Available at: http://www.kidsgrowth.com/resources/articledetail.cfm?id=2270

    Coping With a Disaster or Traumatic Event
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Available at: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/

    Managing Strong Emotional Reactions to Traumatic Events: Tips for Parents and Teachers
    National Association of School Psychologists
    Available at: http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/angermgmt_general.aspx

    Recognizing Stress in Children
    Available at: http://www.preparerespondrecover.com/childrensneeds/

    Answering Children's Questions About Terror, War or Crisis
    Minnesota Council on Family Relations (scroll down to page 5)
    Available at: http://www.mcfr.net/Newsletter/2002/2002_spring.pdf

    Caring for Kids After Trauma, Disaster and Death: A Guide for Parents and Professionals
    The New York University Child Study Center
    Available at: http://www.aboutourkids.org/files/articles/crisis_guide02.pdf

    Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters: For Parents of Children Exposed to Violence or Disaster
    National Institute of Mental Health
    Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/helping-children-and-adolescents-cope-with-violence-and-disasters-parents/helping-children-and-adolescents-cope-with-violence-and-disasters-what-parents-can-do.pdf

    After a Disaster: Helping Young Children Heal
    The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
    Available at: http://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/NCTSN_Disaster_Guidelines.pdf?docID=2162&AddInterest=1142

    Need more information? There are many more resources on responding to and dealing with traumatic events in the CYFERnet database.

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