Helping children cope with tragic situation

Helping children cope
Posted at 7:45 AM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 08:45:17-04

" Why did you take my child from me?"

The pain is unimaginable, the impact is lasting.

"I didn't know where to put myself at that moment. This is the first time that something like this happened, this is my first child I lost."

The need for understanding can weigh heavily on the minds of those directly impacted by a tragedy.

"This morning around 1 o'clock we got a frantic phone call through 911 that a person was shot. Three children were transported to a local hospital."

It can also have lasting effects on those indirectly impacted. Friends, schoolmates, and community all have a hard time to come to grips with tragic events that take place.

"The first thing is to trust your intuition and trust what you know as a loving and caring parent," Melissa Cavanaugh, owner of Counseling and Recovery Guidance, said. "If you don't know the answer, be honest with them and say, we have to find some help to be able to talk about this some more."

Cavanaugh has been that ear for several years; her focus is mainly on children.

She spends her days trying to get them to open and learn how to process their emotions.

"This is becoming just as normal as someone going to the doctor when they break their foot," Cavanaugh said. "Why would you not treat a mental situation the way you'd treat a physical. That's the shift that us in the mental health field are trying to push and's so necessary."

There is no right or wrong way to talk to a child, Cavanaugh said.

But there are more effective ways to approach a difficult topic.

"There are open-ended questions and closed-ended questions," Cavanaugh explained. "A closed ended question involves a yes or no answer. Open ended is, 'it sounds like that is important to you, can you tell me more? What did you hear? If you noticed the child is getting emotional say, it sounds like that is bothering you tell me what's coming up for you. Allowing them to share what they know, what they've heard, and talk about it with the parent."

To be safe, Cavanaugh said, if you know that your child has witnessed a trauma or heard about one it is a good idea to seek out help.

"It may be helpful for them to meet with someone and get a relationship affiliated. Just kind of allow the professional to assess that everything is OK. If they are then they don't have to go back...if not, then they have someone to talk to in their back pocket."

Trauma Scale:

There is a window of tolerance that everyone teeters in every day.

Sometimes our emotions start to tip too far one way or the other.

The first is called Hyperarousal:

This is when someone is on high alert or super anxious, panicking, jumping around a lot, and asking a lot of questions.

The second is Hypoarousal:

This is when someone becomes super numb and disconnected, isolated, is no longer talkative, bubbly, etc.