It seems we’ve dealt with a number of tragedies this year — some natural disasters and some man-made. Last week we honored those killed and injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. Just this year we’ve learned of the loss of Malaysian Airlines flight 370, the mudslide in Washington and the Fort Hood shootings.
The constant barrage of news and the ability of media to capture events from anywhere across the globe expose us to tragedy more quickly and more often. Frequently, the tragedies involve our youth. Just in the first month of this year, for example, there were shootings at schools in Tennessee, Connecticut, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, California, South Carolina, Illinois, and Hawaii. How are we to handle all the bad news that comes our way?
Ivan Lopez, the soldier who reportedly walked into two buildings at Fort Hood and ended up killing three army personnel and injuring 16, was a father of four. How do we explain that and other senseless acts of violence to our children? And how do they cope with it?
Each of us is faced with tragedies, large and small — storm damage, job loss, divorce, illness, a death in the family. What impact do these occurrences have on our children, and what can we do to help them deal with the repercussions?
Here are some things that have helped us with our children:
• Talk about it. Others will, from media to family members to other kids at school or in social groups. Create a climate in which your child can talk and express his or her emotions. Focus on the facts. Find out what your child already knows about the situation. Encourage questions
• Banish blame. Try to avoid placing responsibility. It is not your child’s fault, and responsibility shouldn’t be assigned to anyone else. This is about helping your child cope with a very real hardship — not focusing on who’s at fault.
• Give a hug. We’ve said this often in a number of different ways. Be supportive and tell your child you will do everything you can to keep him or her safe.
• Be patient. Children will have a range of emotions just like adults. They may be less able to express them. Give them time.
• Watch for behavior changes. When kids are faced with difficult situations, they often want to return quickly to a regular routine. Don’t be surprised. While they are still processing the situation, they can often do it best in the context of their normal routine.
• Seek help. Check your local library, responsible sites on the Internet, or counseling services for guidance in dealing with tragedy.
• Be an example. As we’ve said before, you are a role model to your child. Make sure your approach to tragedy is one you want your child to emulate.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.