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8 coping strategies listed for children after tragedy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Eight tips for helping children cope with crises were cited in a conference on “Churches and Crisis” during the National Preschool and Children’s Convention Oct. 15-18 at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In light of the Sept. 11 national trauma, Jim Young, director of the Center for Community Ministries of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in Dallas, counseled parents and church workers to:

1) Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships. Love and care in the family is a primary need. Extra time should be spent with children to let them know that someone will take care of them and, if parents are survivors, that their parents have reassumed their former role as protector and nurturer. Physical closeness is needed.

2) Talk with children about the tragedy, to address the irrationality and suddenness of disaster. Children need to be allowed to vent their feelings, as do adults, and they have a similar need to have those feelings validated. Activities relating to the catastrophe may be useful, providing children with special time to paint, draw or write about it. Adults or older children may help preschool children reenact the event since preschool children may not be able to imagine alternative “endings” to the disaster and hence may feel particularly helpless.

3) Parents should be prepared to tolerate regressive behaviors and accept the manifestation of aggression and anger especially in the early phases after the tragedy.

4) Parents should be prepared for children to talk sporadically about the event, spending small segments of time concentrating on particular aspects of the tragedy.

5) Children want as much factual information as possible and should be allowed to discuss their own theories about what happened in order for them to begin to master the trauma or to reassert control over their environment.

6) Since children are often reluctant to initiate conversations about traumas, it may be helpful to ask them what they think other children felt or thought about the event.

7) Reaffirm the future and talk in hopeful terms about future events. This can help a child rebuild trust and faith in his own future and the world. Often, parental despair interferes with a child’s ability to recover.

8) Address issues of death concretely.

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