Excerpts from the tips for parents and teachers advisory sent out Monday by Hood River County School District:
Whenever a national tragedy occurs, children, like many people, may be confused or frightened. Most likely they will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children cope first and foremost by establishing a sense of safety and security.
As more information becomes available, adults can continue to help children work through their emotions and perhaps even use the process as a learning experience.
What Parents Can Do:
Focus on your children over the week following the tragedy. Tell them you love them and everything will be okay. Try to help them understand what happened, keeping in mind their developmental level.
n Make time to talk with your children. Remember if you do not talk to your children about this incident, someone else will. Take some time and determine what you wish to say.
n Stay close to your children. Your physical presence will reassure them and give you the opportunity to monitor their reaction. Many children will want actual physical contact. Give plenty of hugs and make sure to take extra time at bedtime to cuddle and to reassure them that they are loved and safe.
n Limit your child’s television viewing of these events. If they must watch, watch with them for a brief time, then turn the set off. Don’t sit mesmerized re-watching the same events over and over again.
n Maintain a “normal” routine. To the extent possible stick to your family’s normal routine for dinner, homework, chores, bedtimes, etc., but don’t be inflexible. Children may have a hard time concentrating on schoolwork or falling asleep at night.
n Spend extra time reading or playing quiet games with your children before bed. These activities are calming, foster a sense of closeness and security, and reinforce a sense of normalcy. Spend more time tucking them in. Let them sleep with a light on if they ask for it.
n Safeguard your children’s physical health. Stress can take a physical toll on children as well as adults. Make sure your children get appropriate sleep, exercise and nutrition.
n Consider praying or thinking hopeful thoughts for the victims and their families. It may be a good time to take your children to your place of worship, write a poem, or draw a picture to help your child express their feelings and feel that they are somehow supporting the victims and their families.
n Find out what resources your school has in place to help children cope. Most schools are likely to be open and often are a good place for children to regain a sense of normalcy.
Being with their friends and teachers can help.
— From the National Association of School Psychologists