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So, What Do We Do Now?

Taking care of your children and yourself after the traumatic and horrific event in Newtown, CT.

With the terrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, many parents are concerned about their children’s emotional reaction to hearing that such a horrific event happened at a school. Many children will worry about something like this happening in their own school, too. “Our first job as parents is to reassure children that we’re all – all the grown-ups that they know – are trying to keep them as safe as possible,” says Donna Morrison, Early Childhood Programs Director for The Guidance Center of Westchester. Ms. Morrison also stresses the importance of limiting the children’s exposure to the media coverage.

 “This type of 24/7 coverage is not healthy for adults, either.  When you find yourself unable to stop watching the coverage, it’s a red flag for help,” agrees Mara Saumell, LCSW-R, Director of Mental Health Clinics.

Ms. Saumell continues, “Often times we feel that watching as much or reading as much as possible gives us a sense of control.  We don’t realize that this barrage of information is overloading our system. It then has the opposite effect and can result in constant thoughts about feeing unsafe.”

This, she explains, can mainfest in physical symptoms which someone may not necessarily think is related to the traumatic event.  In both children and adults, be on the look out for: nightmares, the shakes; difficulty breathing for no apparent reason; loss of appetite; headaches; other physical complaints. A link to a list of physical symptoms is at the end of this article.

So, what do we do? How do we help ourselves and the children we love feel safe?

  • Have a plan. Just like we have a fire drill, we need to have a plan for an unwanted intruder. Check with your school about the emergency preparedness plan for an intruder in the building and talk about this plan with your children. Make sure they understand the plan and see it as a way to be safe and have power and control, not as a threat.
  • Limit media exposure.  If children ask questions, answer them honestly with words they will understand.  Limit information to basic facts.
  • Remind them that everyone is working to keep the community safe. Reassure them that it is highly unlikely that something is going to happen to them.
  • Look for physical symptoms such as headaches, sleeplessness, mood swings or clinginess, bedwetting, etc. This may happen for a week or two. If it goes on longer, consult your child’s physician. Some children may have no immediate reaction at all and symptoms may occur three to six months later.
  • Take care of yourself.  You can’t care for your children if you are not feeling well yourself.  Make sure you’re getting sleep and good nutrition.
  • Children already in treatment for emotional or behavioral issues may see an increase in symptoms.  Consult with your child’s therapist.
  • Try to keep things as normal as possible for your children.  Stick to routines and keep up regular activities.

Most importantly, hug your kids and those you love.  Reach out if you need support.

Link to list of physical symptoms of trauma in children.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jill Gertz December 17, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Too much hysteria over this. Kids will end up in a car accident with their friends way way before ever getting shot at school. The chances are tiny - minuscule - virtually non-existent. Too much comfort has bred a society of timid little mice. "Ow hold my hand - the bad news is scary I need support" . Please.
Blaue Vogel December 17, 2012 at 09:26 PM
You're stuck in a building with a homicidal maniac and unfortunately, no one armed to defend you. Best to teach your kids survival skills in the event of that scenario. My husband and I always did, and I went over it again this morning before the youngest got on the bus. Sad we have to do it, but this is the world we live in, and all the blather about changing it, is just that: blather.
tanya December 19, 2012 at 05:01 AM
What do we do now? Start realizing that life isn't 'as it should be,' it is what it is. It's time the self centered, entitled, bubble of denial that has pervaded the rivertowns is finally pierced. Wake up, and dispense with the tired liberal rhetoric.

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