Your child’s mental health when it comes to terrorism in the news
A 10 years old that I teach yoga to weekly, has become petrified a bomb is hidden in her bedroom. She’s taken to sleeping in bed with her parents, is having nightmares and is having panic attack symptoms during the day. She lives in one of the safest areas of Switzerland, which is one of the safest countries in the world. So does a 5 years old boy I teach, who’s mother told me he wants to ‘shoot all the terrorists in the world’. I heard of a 7 years old that was in therapy for a year after the tsunami in 2004, because he couldn’t get it out of his mind, even though Switzerland has no coast. Terrorism, war, natural disasters and anything on the news have the ability to cause your child extreme stress and anxiety, affecting mental and physical health.
As a parent you need to consider how much information you expose your children to and the perspective you want them to have of the situation. Children as young as 4 years old were talking about the recent tragedies at school today, so if you haven’t broached the subject with your child, then he may be hearing about it from someone else. As a parent it is therefore your responsibility to inform your child and monitor how they are coping with, and understanding, the situation. Nothing is better than talking to them, or rather giving them the space and time to ask you any questions they want to.
If it is hard enough for rational, intelligent adults to make sense of the dreadful things going on in the world, imagine how difficult it is for children. They are more vulnerable, sensitive, naive and inexperienced to be able to put any of it into perspective, or cope with it logically.
It is therefore up to you to keep things as positive as you can for your children, make them feel emotionally and physically secure, and remind them of the happy and good things in the world. Children can sense your pain and sadness so it is important to balance their thoughts and understanding of the world, with kindness and hope. Whatever age your child is, use these tragic moments to bond further and support their mental stability, as a parent should. Take some added time to find out what they know, how they feel, to inform them accordingly and comfort them.
Regardless of your religious, political and social views, be aware of what your children are hearing on the radio, T.V, school but MOST importantly, your conversations. Kids pick up on, and hear more than we often realise, and parents are the main influence on a child’s opinions. Be aware of what you say in front of them and of how you talk. If they hear hatred or fear in your voice, then that is what they will feel.
So tell them nice stories of kindness and good, find them cute videos on YouTube, play uplifting songs or watch happy shows about good people on T.V. Whatever it takes to remind them of all the positive there is in the world and help put their sensitive vulnerable minds at ease, and in better perspective. If you are concerned about how your child is reacting to current affairs, make sure to tell their teacher so they’re aware. It is helpful to find out what the school’s policy is and what the teachers will be telling the children, so that you are prepared when conversations continue at home. It is also important to teach children about the concept of racism and unfair prejudice to avoid bullying in or out of school.
Whatever your beliefs are, take a moment to consider what you think your child should know at their age, how much information they can emotionally handle and how to balance their perceptions with positivity and hope. After all they are the next generation, and if they believe in the overriding power of goodness, kindness, love and peace, then hopefully the world will become a better place.