As we manage our own feelings in relation to this tragic event, it is important to be aware of what young children may be experiencing, and how our reactions may affect them. Young children look to the important adults in their lives to make sense of what is happening around them, and to reassure and comfort them in times of crisis. ZERO TO THREE offers the following guidance to parents, caregivers and professionals on how to address these complex issues in a sensitive and developmentally appropriate way.
Take care of yourself:
- Stay connected. Keep in close touch with family and friends. Share your feelings, fears and concerns.
- Maintain your daily routine as best you can.
- Make time for the things you enjoy.
- Turn off the TV, internet and radio if they are making you anxious.
- Rest, exercise, and try to eat regular, balanced meals.
- Enjoy your child! Delight in the everyday moments that bring you both joy.
- Consider talking to a trusted health professional or seeking other professional help if you have further questions or need more support.
Take care of your child:
- Maintain a regular routine, especially expected activities such as playtime, reading before bed, or cuddle time.
- Turn off TV, internet and radio reports; don’t leave newspapers with disturbing images lying around.
- Ask friends and family members not to discuss scary events around your child.
- Respond to your child’s need for increased attention, comfort and reassurance. This will make them 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, i.e. “scared,” “sad,” or “angry.”
- 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. Many young children work through frightening events by reenacting them in play. If your child seems to be distresses by his play, comfort him and offer another activity.
- Be patient and calm when your child is clingy, whiny, and aggressive. He needs you to help him regain control and feel safe.
- Answer children’s questions according to their level of understanding, “Yes, what we see in the news feels scary. We also see many people helping others and I want you to know you are safe.”