After an act of violence or devastation, it’s vital to address what’s happened with the children in our lives and provide resources for mental health. The following guide is meant to provide a trauma-attuned framework that can help adults in structuring those difficult conversations.
1. Practice how you plan to discuss the topic with an adult first, before speaking with children. Pay attention to any parts of the conversation or topics where you feel uncomfortable or feel you may need further assistance. Ask for support from other adults, do not be afraid to bring in others who may be more knowledgeable.
2. Frame your conversation through a developmental lens. Use language that the child will understand. For younger children you may want to use developmentally appropriate resources like books or stories to help present information and provide a safe context in which the child can explore their thoughts and feelings.
3. Follow the child’s lead. Ask them what they know. What have they heard/seen? Where did they receive that information? What questions do they have? You may need to correct some false information, but do not offer more then what the child needs to know.
4. Be a model. Take your own pulse and monitor your regulation and emotions throughout the conversation. Note feelings that you may be experiencing and model for children how they can manage complex emotions. It is important for children to know that the adults in their lives are having similar emotional responses as their own.
5. Recognize that there are some feelings we can only share and not fix. Children need us to be there with and for them. We will not always have the answers or the ability to take away their fear or pain.
Three Steps to Foster Resiliency
There are three things that we all need to successfully navigate the ever-increasing stressors of the modern world:
- Safety refers to the rules and structures that are in place to protect us. Before talking to children about an event take time to collect information relating to the rules of said event.
- Security refers to routines, objects, and relationships that make us feel safe and cared for. Routines provide a sense of control and expectation that helps to ward off the negative aspects of anxiety and trauma.
- Confidence has a positive impact on a child’s, attitude, affective and even socio-emotional growth. Students look to the adults in their lives for resources for mental health and guidance on how to respond to stressful situations.
Resources for Mental Health
SAMSHA National Helpline – 800-662-HELP (800-662-4357)
NAMI – 800-950-NAMI (800-950-6264)
The Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741
National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline – 988
Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Tools and Resources
Mental Health America – Crisis Resources