Thursday, July 26, 2012

Talking With Your Kids About Bad Stuff

In case you didn't know, Liberty Lake Day Camp employs a dynamic resource counselor named Cathi Fischer, LCSW. Cathi works during the school year as a social worker in the New Brunswick Public Schools, has her own clinical practice, and drives into NYC to do grief counseling at Sloan Kettering Medical Center. Our Insurance Company also employs her as part of their consulting team which works with the finest camps across all of America.

Speaking from personal experience, I have trouble finding the right way to frame shocking and disturbing situations like what happened in Connecticut last week, Colorado this summer, etc- for my own kids. So when Cathi offered to write up some tips and tools for our Camp Families to help mitigate the emotional effects on our childen, I took her up on it- I hope you learn something from the below, as I did!

Traumatic events can have profound effects not only on those who have been injured, but also on loved ones, survivors and witnesses. Extensive media coverage of tragedies means that the circle of witnesses has expanded to include those who were not present at the event. These incidents can be extremely disturbing to children, who thrive on predictability and security.
  • Ways to talk to your children after a traumatic event. Children frequently feel more vulnerable than adults because of their limited physical and emotional resources. Do not minimize your child’s concerns, even if they seem trivial to you. You can ask your children “What do you think kids will worry about the most?” Let them know it is normal to feel worried or upset.  They may ask the same questions repeatedly, they need the continued reassurance that they are safe.
  •  Limit the amount of TV watching: There is a great deal of mass media attention to this issue with sad, dramatic, and frightening images that are continually showing on the television. Watching these scenes may create feeling of vulnerability in your children. Please monitor what they are watching, limit their accessibility and talk to them about what they are viewing. If you feel it is appropriate to view media coverage, watch together.
  • Ask your children what they hearing and where they are hearing it. Make sure you give them accurate information without going into great detail. You should clarify terms they may have heard that they do not know the meaning of. For example, “homicide” is when someone killed another person, it is not an accident.
  • Deal with questions in a simple factual manner, without giving graphic details. For example “What happens when you get shot?” Possible Response: “When you get shot you might be injured in the part of the body that got hit. Sometimes the injury can be serious enough that the person’s heart will stop and they will die. Sometimes a person is not injured as badly and they will go to the hospital and the will be taken care of by the nurses and doctors.
  • “Why did this happen to these people?” Explain to your children that we may not know the exact reason why this horrible thing happened, but we assume that this person was troubled and did not know how to talk clearly about their thoughts and feelings. The result is they were not able to control their impulse to hurt others. They kept things to themselves. It is important for people to seek help when they have thoughts and feelings that make them feel angry, hurt, confused or scared. Everyone needs someone to talk to who can help them solve problems and feel better. Ask your child “Who would you talk to if you were feeling scared, hurt or confused inside?" Be available for them to talk. They may ask the same questions repeatedly, they need the continued reassurance.
  • Keep their routine normal. This gives your child a sense of security.
  • What if my child does not talk? You can ask your child to draw a picture of what they understand happened if they are young, or write about it if they are older.
  • Monitor your child’s behavior and seek help if your child displays any of the following:
    • Stomach aches, headaches or muscle pains that may not be medically based
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
    • Inability to stop thinking about the event
    • Changes in behavior (aggression, anger, more clingy or fearful of irritable)
    • Withdrawal from friends and family
    • Nightmares
    • Excessive worrying about something bad happening to them or a loved one.
Our generation has now gone through 9/11, the Space Shuttle accident, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now this horrible situation in Newtown CT- These events can effect kids a lot more than adults. Being aware of it is the first step, and then having some tools int he toolbox is the second.  

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to call Cathi Fischer, LCSW at camp, or Email her at

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