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October 4, 2015 | 21st Tishrei 5776

Simple Pointers for Parents (and Even for Adults)

Do not repeatedly view images of the tragedy and don't allow children to do so. Our tradition encourages us not to look on at suffering we cannot avert, both because it diminishes the dignity of those who were directly involved and because it causes us to experience a sense of helpless horror which is what leads in some to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Visual and audio images are much more disturbing than hearing a caring adult explain what happened.

Do not assume that children don't know what happened, although their facts may be incorrect. Follow their lead and answer questions honestly but simply, providing no more information than is sought. Ask them what they have heard if they do begin to show evidence of knowing something through their play, drawings or conversation. Out tradition does encourage us to answer children's questions and to find comfort in sharing what has happened with loved ones.

Admit that it is indeed terribly sad and also confusing and frightening; if possible try to control the degree of anxiety you express around children but do seek other adults with whom you can share your feelings. Expect that children may draw gruesome pictures, play games re-enacting what they think happened or may seem indifferent; children process emotion differently.

Children and everyone else cope best with frightening situations when they are able to remain close to people with whom they feel secure. While keeping to routines try to make sure children (and you!) are around caring people.

Religious services and rituals--like lighting Shabbat and Chanukah candles--can provide a sense of hope, calm and continuity as we remind ourselves that love and light are still part of our world.

Distracting oneself and one's children and participating in pleasurable and fun activities is psychologically good for us; we can return renewed to offering comfort and facing problems when we are replenished by involvement in ordinary and reassuring activities.

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