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Disasters, accidents and violent situations such as terrorism provoke emotions of sadness, pain and helplessness. If it is difficult for adults to express the feelings that these situations provoke, it is even more difficult to talk about them to children.
What will we take into account when speaking with children from 6 to 9 years old? Children of this age have greater cognitive maturity but it is not yet that of an adult. For this reason, they are especially vulnerable to having misunderstood information because they mix their fantasies with what some adults or others tell them. Putting these pieces together, he builds an image that does not correspond to what has truly happened.
In this period they are very receptive and grasp incongruities. For example, telling them that nothing is wrong but expressing bodily stress. Mismatches between 'verbal' and 'non-verbal' language. Children at this age understand that deaths occur and that they are also irreversible. What they are still not aware of is that they too will die one day, but they are very concerned about what happens to those around them. How do you react to these extreme situations ?:
- They lose the autonomy they had gained during their development, such as not eating with cutlery, re-wetting the bed, etc.
- They can be very agitated and irritable
- Changes in communication patterns can be seen. They don't want to talk about anything or, on the contrary, they talk at all times.
- There is a general fear of being alone, separating from their parents, going somewhere.
- Continuously thinks or acts on what has happened. They are thoughts or actions that help the child to process what happened
- Nightmares, difficulty sleeping or hypersomnia may occur.
What steps should parents take to help their children? Fathers and mothers, to do the containment function:
- They will try to prevent children's fears from overflowing.
- Create a calm and relaxed environment
- Name all the child's emotions using a phrase that can reassure him, such as: 'I see that you are scared but realize that you are safe here because mom or dad are with you'.
To calm him down, parents can resort to previous situations that help children activate their own coping mechanisms. To inform, use simple words to explain what happened. To normalize the situation and comfort him, you should not tell the little one that he will feel good, but rather that they should be by his side when he needs it, accompanying him.
You can read more articles similar to How to explain catastrophes to children aged 6 to 9, in the category of Death on site.