Howdy from Texas,
As I’m sure you’ve heard, there has been devastating flooding here in Central Texas. There have also been several tornadoes. Being a mother and former therapist, my heart is breaking for the children who have been impacted by these events. Navigating through trauma can be really difficult for parents. The most important thing is to let children process it. When our emotions are stuffed, they often emerge in our behavior. Anxiety, fearfulness, anger, violence, or emotional absence may occur as a result of unattended emotion. Help your child process and by all means, be a good example by processing this yourself. Here are some of the most difficult things to work through and some tools for healing.
Where is God when bad things happen?? Probably one of the most difficult things to navigate can be their faith in God. Many adults struggle with this issue so much that their faith hinges on it. Imagine how hard it is for children. Here’s how you can help:
– Remind them that God is always the “good guy.” God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. When bad things like this happen to us, He is sad too. God has promised us that in the end of our story, He will make all bad things go away and never happen again. Have them think of their favorite movie or story. My little guy loves Frozen. There are scary parts in the movie but in the end everything is ok. That is what God promises us: that He is always with us, He loves us, and in the end He will stop all bad things from ever happening again.
For 4-7 year olds
For School-Aged (About 7-10)– This has a wonderful Table of Contents and includes the question: “If God loves people, why do bad things happen?”
For Your Pre-Teen or Young Teen: Chronicles of Narnia (A great metaphorical series of God’s love for us and surviving scary events)
For Your Mid to Older Teen (Kids of this age can love to debate and work their logical brain which is really just forming. It would be helpful to give them a book that is also fairly concrete which is why an apologetics book such as this could be very helpful. It was for me as a teen.)
Please do not underestimate the importance of this step. If it’s not dealt with now, you will pay for it later. Sorry, that sounds harsh. It’s true.
– First, learn to empathize. (Check out this AWESOME video on the difference between empathy and sympathy, it is a MUST see for parents and for anyone who is breathing really) It is so hard to hear your kid say they are scared or sad. I get that. But telling them to stop feeling the way they feel isn’t going to work. Instead, nod your head, put your arm around them and be honest that you were scared too. Tell them that you are sad that ____ happened. Be real. It’s ok to be honest. Once they feel heard, then you can say, “I want you to know that you are safe now and we will get through this together.”
– Second, recognize the signs of trauma. If you notice a change in your child’s demeanor or perhaps they have regressed in sleep or bathroom skills then they are most likely struggling. Be sure not to react in anger. Instead, work to understand their pain. Give them tools to work through their feelings. Depending on your child’s age, the use of play, books, art, journaling, prayer, yoga, breathing exercises, and counseling are all good options. Time-outs and other punitive forms of discipline should be put on hold during this time as they are forms of breaking relationship with your child and could cause an increase in anxiety. What they need most right now is to know you are there no matter what. You can work on character building later, now is the time for healing.
– Third, all children respond differently to trauma. What may seem small to us, could be very scary to a child with limited understanding of the world. Do not take this lightly and do not hesitate to provide counseling for your child.
Here are some book recommendations:
School Aged (4 and up)
School Aged (7 and up) Dealing Specifically With the Loss of “Someone Close”
Tools for Coping with Emotions (4-12) There is also a YouTube video for this series that can be very helpful.
Boys- An inspiring True Story about Overcoming
The most important thing for you do to do as a parent is to get yourself in a healthy place. Your kid needs you to be present for them and you can’t be if you’re still reeling from the trauma yourself. Let yourself grieve but don’t be swallowed by it. Exercise, eat properly, pray, cry with a friend, and seek counseling. Take time to play with your kids and have bonding time as a family. This is more important than any book: quality, connecting time. Go grab a Fro-Yo. Take a break for a dance-off. See a movie. LAUGH. Show them that life will go on and that this event cannot break your family.
You must know this deep in your heart: You are safe. You are loved. Someday, this will all be over. Trust that, and your children will come to also.