Responding to Children’s Emotional Needs During Times of Crisis: Information for Parents

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</p> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p001"> <inline-graphic id="peo_document036.en.in043" xlink:href="peo_document036f001.jpg" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" />Pediatricians are often the first<br /> responders for children and families suffering emotional and psychological<br /> reactions to terrorism and other disasters. As such, pediatricians have a unique<br /> opportunity to help parents and other caregivers communicate with children in<br /> ways that allow them to better understand and recover from traumatic events such<br /> as terrorist attacks or other disasters. Pediatricians also can help to<br /> facilitate timely referral to mental health services, as appropriate, for these<br /> children and their families.</p> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p002">Important tips for parents and other caregivers<br /> include:</p> <ul id="peo_document036.en.s001l001" list-type="bullet"> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p003">Take care of yourself first. Children<br /> depend on the adults around them to be and feel safe and secure. If you<br /> are very anxious or angry, children are likely to be more affected by<br /> your emotional state than by your words. Find someone you trust to help<br /> with your personal concerns.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p004">Watch for unusual behavior that may<br /> suggest your child is having difficulty dealing with disturbing events.<br /> Stress-related symptoms to be aware of include depressed or irritable<br /> moods; sleep disturbances, including increased sleeping, difficulty<br /> falling asleep, nightmares or nighttime waking; changes in appetite,<br /> either increased or decreased; social withdrawal; obsessive play, such<br /> as repetitively acting out the traumatic event, which interferes with<br /> normal activities; and hyperactivity that was not previously<br /> present.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p005">Talk about the event with your child. To<br /> not talk about it makes the event even more threatening in your<br /> child’s mind. Silence suggests that what has occurred is too<br /> horrible to even speak of.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p006">Start by asking what your child has<br /> already heard about the events and what understanding he or she has<br /> reached. As your child explains, listen for misinformation,<br /> misconceptions, and underlying fears or concerns.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p007">Explain—as simply and directly as<br /> possible—the events that occurred. The amount of information that<br /> will be helpful to a child depends on his or her age. For example, older<br /> children generally want and will benefit from more detailed information<br /> than younger children. Because every child is different, take cues from<br /> your own child as to how much information to provide.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p008">Limit television viewing of terrorist<br /> events or other disasters, especially for younger children. When older<br /> children watch television, try to watch with them and use the<br /> opportunity to discuss what is being seen and how it makes you and your<br /> child feel.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p009">Encourage your child to ask questions,<br /> and answer those questions directly. Like adults, children are better<br /> able to cope with a crisis if they feel they understand it.<br /> Question-and-answer exchanges help to ensure ongoing support as your<br /> child begins to understand the crisis and the response to it.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p010">Don’t force the issue with your<br /> child. Instead, extend multiple invitations for discussion and then<br /> provide an increased physical and emotional presence as you wait for him<br /> or her to be ready to accept those invitations.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p011">Recognize that your child may appear<br /> disinterested. In the aftermath of a crisis, younger children may not<br /> know or understand what has happened or its implications. Older children<br /> and adolescents, who are used to turning to their peers for advice, may<br /> initially resist invitations from parents and other caregivers to<br /> discuss events and their personal reactions. Or, they may simply not<br /> feel ready to discuss their concerns.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p012">Reassure children of the steps that are<br /> being taken to keep them safe. Terrorist attacks and other disasters<br /> remind us that we are never com-pletely safe from harm. Now more than<br /> ever it is important to reassure children that, in reality, they should<br /> feel safe in their schools, homes, and communities.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p013">Consider sharing your feelings about the<br /> event or crisis with your child. This is an opportunity for you to role<br /> model how to cope and how to plan for the future. Before you reach out,<br /> however, be sure that you are able to express a positive or hopeful<br /> plan.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p014">Help your child to identify concrete<br /> actions he or she can take to help those affected by recent events.<br /> Rather than focus on what could have been done to prevent a terrorist<br /> attack or other disaster, concentrate on what can be done now to help<br /> those affected by the event.</p> </li> <li> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p015">If you have concerns about your<br /> child’s behavior, contact your child’s pediatrician, other<br /> primary care provider, or a qualified mental health care specialist for<br /> assistance.</p> </li> </ul> <p id="peo_document036.en.s001p016">For additional information, please visit the<br /> American Academy of Pediatrics’ Children, Terrorism & Disasters<br /> Web site at <ext-link xlink:href="http://www.aap.org/terrorism" ext-link-type="uri" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink">http://www.aap.org/terrorism</ext-link>.</p> </p></div> <p></body></p> <div id="pedweblogo"><a href="http://www.pediatricweb.com" target="_blank"><img src="https://www.pediatricweb.com/images/poweredbyPW.gif" alt="Powered by Pediatric Web" border="0" /></a> <br /><a style="font-size: 9px;color: #000000;" href="http://www.pediatricweb.com/disclaimer.asp" target="_blank">disclaimer</a><br /><span style="font-size:0.8em;">Denver Data Feed</span></div> </div> </article> </main> <div class="col-xs-12 col-md-3"> <div class="sidebar" role="complementary"> </div> </div> </div> </div> <footer class="footer" role="contentinfo"> <div class="footer-top"> <div class="container"> <div class="row"> <div class="col-xs-12 col-md-2"><div class="widget widget_black_studio_tinymce"><h6 class="footer-top__headings">LOCATIONS</h6><div class="textwidget"><p style="color: #ffffff;"><a href="http://pediatricpartnersmd.net/bel-air-north-park/" style="color: #ffffff;"><strong>Bel Air - 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