As we hold our children a little closer, we wonder how such a tragedy could have possibly unfolded in a quiet New England town.
As our hearts ache for those parents who have lost children, and those children who have lost brothers, sisters, parents and teachers, we wonder why. I wonder how they will go on, living with grief, or in fear, as their lives have been changed forever. Nothing can bring back their loss, or ease the pain that hundreds of families will endure from a senseless tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
Why does violence continue to be breaking news?
Could it be that we have desensitized our children by allowing them to play video games with guns and weapons that clear a room full of cartoon warriors? Do those games normalize violence and killing with a powerful adrenalin rush?
Children learn what they live. Have we allowed violent movies and TV to seep into our everyday lives? Many children are permitted to watch movies that are well beyond their understanding.
Television needs to be monitored, as much of it is completely inappropriate for those who are learning as they watch. Have we become too busy or just careless? Have we all become desensitized to violence?
How can we protect our children? Experts across the country are weighing in and recommending how to talk to children about traumatic circumstances.
Common themes suggest that we provide information, emotional security, stability and love. I believe that every child needs each of those supports every single day, not just when tragedy unfolds.
It is always important to tell children the truth so they learn trust, believe what we say, and come to us often with their questions. As parents, we want them to learn that they can rely on us for the answers.
However, it is not necessary, or even recommended, to offer more information than is asked. Children ask what they need to know.
Provide a clear, simple answer in one or two sentences, and then stop. Wait for your child to process that information.
Your brief answer may be enough. If your child asks another question, give another brief, one sentence answer. On any given day children ask what they want to know. Don’t tell them more than they can understand or process.
Children develop a sense of emotional security when they know what to expect.
Waking up each day to normal routine is always in a child’s best interest, because emotional and functional learning occurs more readily when a child is comfortable. With a consistent, routine environment children are better able to maintain healthy emotional self-control, and when distressed can often self-regulate more easily.
Page 2 of 2 - In the face of tragedy, there is very little that is normal, but whenever possible be consistent with routines that directly affect your child. Always provide routine comfort at bedtime with time for prayers and stories.
Increase family time
Experts suggest that families spend more time together when tragedy occurs. Family time includes sharing meals, going for walks or reading together. It is your physical presence that provides comfort and emotional security. Family time provides the foundation for children to develop the social skills they need to be successful. Turn off the TV and find time every day to play a board game, piece together a puzzle, look through family albums, or bake a family recipe together. Make family night part of your weekly routine to instill and reinforce the values you hold true.
Communicate your love, understanding and support with unexpected hugs or a gentle loving touch. Take time to sit and rock together. Express your love, with and without words.
Be there for your child. Eliminate access to violent games, TV and movies. Teach with thought, and wrap your child in love and hugs every day.
Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting coach who lives in Stark County Ohio. She is author of “Parenting with a Purpose.” Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find parenting resources at her website, www.yourperfectchild.com.