Any parent knows that once you have children, you will always worry about them. Consequently, it is perfectly normal to try to protect them to the best of your ability and provide them with a safe environment in which to live.
However, no parent has the capacity to protect their child from external events which are beyond their control. If you are a parent faced with such a situation, the only thing you can do is help your child to process what happens so that they don’t suffer long-term psychological damage. Here are some things you can do to help your child to deal with distressing events:
If your child has experienced or is currently going through something mentally disturbing, the onus is on you to make them feel as safe as you can. They may need to see you taking extra precautions to ensure their safety, such as locking doors. It could be that something as simple as keeping your house well-lit after sundown would make a massive difference in making your child feel more secure. Even something as simple as hearing you say you will always protect them can help a child feel much safer. You should do whatever is reasonable to make your child feel protected if you know they’ve suffered through an upset.
Mind Your Words
When speaking to your child about something that has disturbed them, it is important to consider the kind of language you use. Children are often sensitive, and far more perceptive than we give them credit for. Make sure you speak calmly, honestly and rationally. Do not use language or vocal tones that may hint that you are also stressed out. This will only exacerbate your child’s sense of unease.
Sustain Normal Procedures
If you as a family experience something traumatic and everything you normally do comes to a screeching halt as a result of it, this will not be good for your child’s psychological welfare. You must try to do the things you would normally do each day, as much as possible. Children fare best when they know what to expect. The adage you might have read or heard which asserts that kids thrive on routine is perfectly valid. Routine is necessary during or after events that make children feel traumatized.
When you go to bed at night, does your mind ever race with thoughts about things that have happened during the day? Does this happen more when things have been particularly stressful? Children are no different to adults in this regard. Thus, it is important to show extra kindness and support to your child at bedtime during periods when they feel unsettled. They could use extra hugs, kisses, and reassurances. You might also be interested in purchasing and reading some children’s storybooks that have been written to help kids deal with emotional trauma.
You may know from experience that the news can easily disturb and depress a grown adult. Indeed, research indicates that exposure to the news can contribute to feelings of fear, anxiety and depression in grown-ups. If the news can depress an adult, imagine its impact on a child who is not yet emotionally mature. If your child is already distressed, do not add to it by exposing them to media that may make them feel even worse.
Promote Authentic Communication
When children can recognize and understand the emotions they feel, they are better equipped to process them. You can ask your child how they feel about something that has happened to them. Encourage them to give that feeling a name, texture, and color. Once acknowledged, a feeling has less capacity to overwhelm an individual. You will help your child a lot by asking them to acknowledge what they feel.
All children are unique, and they express themselves in different ways. Some children seem to be born articulate. They can provide interesting anecdotes from the age of three. Others like to express themselves via body language. Everybody knows a little girl who loves to dance, for example. You might also know kids who like to draw pictures or make plasticine models to convey their feelings. Any creative outlet, from dance to painting to storytelling, can help your child to process their feelings when they have lived through a horrible ordeal.
Your Reactions Are Vital
Nobody on this planet has the ability to control everything that happens to them or their children. Sometimes, parents are powerless to protect children from trauma. Feeling remorseful about such things is, therefore, futile. However, there is always hope. That’s because everybody has the opportunity to decide how they react to things that occur. How a parent responds after their child suffers through something disturbing has a massive bearing on that child’s psychological recovery. Respond correctly now, and there is no reason why your child cannot come to accept what happened and continue to lead a fulfilling life.