Kids Need to Feel Safe
Now, more than ever, our children are confronted almost daily with news of bomb threats or a possible school shooting. While we want to protect our children, it may feel like we are helpless sometimes. It is incredibly difficult to try and calm the nerves of our kids, but here are some ideas to help you out. There really isn’t a right or wrong approach – trust you know your child best. The best we can do is build resiliency through human connection, love, and compassion.
- First of all, Be PRESENT. Turn off your phone, your computer, and the TV. Be close to your children; get on the floor with them. Give plenty of hugs and kisses. Your flight instinct is going to want to takeover and forget all about discipline and routines – This helps us if we are being chased by a tiger. However, it does not help us when we need to pick up our kids from school unexpectedly. So, Parents: Breathe. Breathe and ground yourself before the kiddos get in the car. If you can’t relax, they can’t either.
- Be Open to your children’s needs — Ask your child, “What do you need?” While trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in the home, Routines and discipline should be followed but be flexible enough to listen and respect each child’s needs.
- Talk. Consider developmental ages when you do this. Children are going to see and hear more than we may like. Wouldn’t you rather be the one to first discuss these issues instead of your child’s seat partner? This is another good opportunity to teach children ways to express feelings.
- Get creative: Draw. Create, write, Act. There is scientific evidence to support that doing something creative is an excellent way to express difficult stuff and quite healing at the same time. Bring out those puppets for the little ones and have them narrate a story.
- Build Character and Model Resiliency: Talk about values and intentions. How do you want to live your life and what kind of person do you want to be? Our children can be strong in the face of adversity. We aren’t the first to deal with bomb threats – many of our parents faced air raid drills daily. Resilience is being able to adapt, be flexible and stable. Let’s show our kids we can lean into this uncertainty, find their source of strength, and trust that life will go on.
- Love yourself. This may sound unrelated to a bomb threat, but this is akin to “give yourself oxygen first, then your child.” If you have a pure heart, your children will too.
- Take action. Often when we are faced with a scary event, our bodies get ‘stuck’ in freeze mode. Taking action can be similar to a survival response, so if there is something age-appropriate that feels right to you and your child, then doing something like an act of kindness or writing a letter may be just the right thing.
- TRUST. Trust that you have done your best, you have loved your best and there is only so much you can do. Give your child the benefit of accepting that we do not have control over everything and that doesn’t mean life won’t be grand while we manage unsettling situations. Life continues. We are okay.
Perhaps the only thing we do know to be certain is our love for our children. When my two kids come home today, I’m going to hug them tightly and let them ask questions. If I don’t know the answers, that’s okay. The best thing we can do is provide a safe place for them to be curious and find their own answers to whom they want to be and how they want to make their way in the world. We can’t force this, but we can provide the space for their own self discovery and the reminder that they can each make a difference.