The recent bombings in Boston have brought many emotions and challenges to the forefront of our daily lives. Adults still recovering from the trauma are asking themselves, “How do we explain to our children what and why this has happened? Is their childhood now over, forever? What about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? How do we answer our children’s questions about people hurting other happy people on purpose?” These are important questions in need of serious answers.
I turned to an expert from Boston in the field of Family Therapy named Terry J. Basile to help us get our children back on the road to healthy mental, emotional and physical recovery. Her insights can help us rise above this crisis and continue with our lives in a positive way…
As a child I would ride the train to Boston and like Dorothy I would enter my magical Emerald City. The smell of the train, the crisp air and the hurrying crush of people were exciting. I should have been scared by the differences from the quiet suburb I grew up in but always felt safe because I was holding my mom’s hand. Now with the recent bombings in Boston, I am having a hard time maintaining that innocent memory. I wonder how we keep our children feeling safe in what we know more than ever is an unsafe world. How do we hold their “emotional” and “spiritual” hand through a national tragedy or natural disaster?
As a therapist working with children and trauma I know that how we respond to a traumatic event is crucial in reducing the short and long term effects of the event on our young.
So let’s first talk about how we need to deal with our own feelings in order to help our children.
- Often after these events we feel tired, distracted, angry, helpless and unsafe ourselves. No matter how depressed we feel, we need to activate emotional support through contact with family, friends, nature or our spiritual beliefs.
- It is not a time to take on big changes at home or work. Allow some of your usual scheduled household tasks to slide.
- Spend your time instead snuggling with the kids, playing board games or any family activity. Even though it might feel disrespectful to an adult, it is ok to laugh at your son’s silly jokes. This reassures him that life will continue as it was and that you will be ok too.
- Keep discussion of current events simple.
- Answer questions truthfully but with limited information. How many people died is not important information. ‘Why’ is far too complicated to address in terms of mental illness or politics. Yet you can acknowledge that a terrible event happened and people were hurt.
- Confirm that they are safe now and that you will do whatever you can to keep it that way.
- Always be sure to have a conversation about feelings. This is a “teaching” moment.
- Lead by example. Your model stating that it is good to talk and express feelings is a valuable tool for their life.
In my book Let’s Color Your Feelings! I use colors and animals to help parents encourage children 4 + to share and positively express themselves. For example the book says” … on a Red Dragon Angry Day a child might need lots of room to run and play”. Help your child discover where in their body they hold their feelings. Then give them some ideas to release them. Some kids go outside and roar like a dragon or take a deep breath, then blow out all the ‘yucky feelings’. It depends on the style of your child. Some will know exactly what they need to do, but others will need you to give them options. Include them in the decision. You can create your own colors and animals and make up a language of feelings. This is something helpful to use every day and is valuable to have in place in times of crisis.
The most important thing to remember is that children are not little adults.
- Do not expect them to deal with trauma the way you do.
While they may want all the latest toys, the quality of their relationship with you sets up valuable patterns for the rest of their life. Give them the gift of your time, undivided attention and love. It’s the one they will remember and treasure.
I thank Terry Basile, my guest blogger, for her time and insights into this difficult reality that is now a part in the United States of America. Boston is the heart and birthplace of our country. Our heart is broken but not destroyed. It still beats strong and true. And although some of our freedom may be lost, the unity we have as American people continues in our ability to comfort and guide each other with wisdom and emotional support during our times of need and strife. Our children are our future. Let’s keep our future strong.
Bio: Terry J. Basile, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist has worked with children and families in Massachusetts and California since 1973. She has been involved with feelings education throughout her career, including as a director of county Head Start Mental Health Services. She presently has a private practice and has written the children’s book Let’s Color Your Feelings! Available through her website: letscoloryourfeelings.com or Amazon. You can also reach her through her email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Bio: Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos- survived three breast cancers & penned SURVIVING TRAUMALAND: The Intuitive Aspects of Healing & is represented by Steve Allen Media. She’s a contributing author to many books, a phone counselor for the R.A. BLOCH Cancer Foundation, Q&A Cancer Columnist for CapeWomenOnlineMagazine, BTR Radio Host, Inspirational Keynote speaker, mentor, PATHEOS & OM Times blogger, & part of LinkedIn’s WELLNESS AUTHORITY. Follow her on her social media sites from her website@ www.survivingcancerland.com & www.AccessYourInnerGuide.com