The world we live in seems to be increasingly connected through images and stories on the internet, the news, and social media. When the world seems scary and frightening events are happening so often, how do we help children feel safe? How do we help them cope with fears and anxiety?
First, we must acknowledge the fear, the anxiety, and the pain some children experience. Set aside time to connect, face to face, without the distraction of TV or other devices, to listen to what they are feeling and hear the question they are asking.
Asking open-ended questions such as:
- Did you hear about what happened today in _______?
- How to do you feel about what happened?
- What sorts of thoughts have you had today about what happened?
- Have you had any ‘what if’ thoughts today?
Resist the urge to fix, dismiss, ignore, or punish the thoughts and feelings a child may have. Provide empathy and connection by offering understanding.
Connection and empathy might sound like:
- “It is scary when things like this happen.”
- “You’re safe with me. We will get through this together.”
- “It’s hard to watch things like this happen in our community, world, country, etc.”
Children will often feel helpless as if there is nothing they can do to make a difference. In Conscious Discipline, we strive to help children understand the interconnectedness of all people through a ritual called “wishing well.” In order to teach a child to wish someone else well, we tell them that wishing well is like being able to gather up love from all corners of the world and hold it in your heart as you think of those you wish well. When you wish someone well, take a deep breath in through your nose. When you breathe out release all that love in your heart for those you are wishing well. This ritual empowers children to be a part of the healing process and shift their focus from fear and judgment.
Due to the way information is shared in our culture, children and adults alike have access to information and images 24-7. Children need our help to create a plan to feel emotionally safe when the world feels scary. Have a family meeting and set boundaries on the amount of screen time the family will have. It’s helpful to stay informed, but too much time in front of the news or social media can increase anxiety and fear among children, encouraging them to act from a survival state instead of a connected, problem-solving brain state. Help your children shift into their higher level brain states by asking how they can be helpful to others in their community. Everyone in your family can make commitments to start the day in order to help shift the focus from fear to love.
We are all in this together. Safety, connection, and problem-solving are the keys to creating healing environments for children.