Gun violence is an all too common occurrence in our communities. Children may experience fear, anxiety, and confusion after experiencing, witnessing, or hearing about shootings in their community. The authors of the New York Times best-selling, award-winning book about a police shooting, Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice, Marianne Celano, PhD, ABPP, Marietta Collins, PhD, and Ann Hazzard, PhD, ABPP, created a new book, Something Happened In Our Park: Standing Together After Gun Violence, to help kids and grown-ups talk about gun violence and explore positive ways to respond. This excerpt from the extensive Reader’s Note in Something Happened In Our Park provides guidelines for discussing community gun violence with children. The Incidence and Impact of Gun Violence Every year over 15,000 children and teens, ages 0-19, are killed or injured by shootings, an average of 43 per day. An estimated three million children witness a shooting each year. Exposure to community violence puts children at increased risk for a variety of negative psychological outcomes. These children spend less time outside and are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, emotional concerns and concentration problems contribute to poorer academic performance. Helping Children Cope with Anxiety We all want our children to feel safe. Yet, we also want to prepare them for the dangers they may face. At times, this preparation might increase their anxiety, although appropriate education also increases children’s actual safety. These are competing priorities, and finding the right balance is challenging. Individual and Family Strategies to Increase Safety and Reduce Anxiety Children who become aware of shootings may become fearful and want to avoid certain activities and places. Other symptoms of anxiety are sleep and appetite changes, physical complaints, concentration problems, clinginess, irritability, or behavior problems. Parents have an important role in helping children cope with anxiety. Children sense when their caretakers are stressed, so it is important for parents to develop strategies to manage their feelings. Children also rely on parents to help them understand and manage their feelings. These approaches may be helpful. Limit your child’s exposure to graphic violent imagery in the news or in other media such as video games. Ask your children questions to find out what information they have and how they are feeling. Discuss your child’s reactions and concerns. Validate their feelings. Help your child manage their reactions using some of the strategies below, designed to help them cope with feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Expressing Feelings: You can help your children manage stress by coaching them to “turn down the volume” on emotions that feel overwhelming. Deep breathing, drawing, humming or singing, snuggling with a pet or favorite cuddly object, and visualizing a safe place, positive memory, or situation where your child mastered something scary are all calming strategies. Any activity which helps your child feel empowered, like music, sports, or prayer, can help to balance feelings of vulnerability. Encouraging Positive Thinking: Positive thinking means encouraging your child to thinkRead More
Climate change isn’t just changing the climate: It’s affecting every part of our world. To help kids understand the transformation of our planet that’s happening right now, All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal With Climate Change by Leslie Davenport will take them on a journey through many different branches of science, our history, our societies and cultures, and into their own mind and feelings. As they learn about climate change, they’ll also be learning about themselves. Your child will be learning more about what they're feeling and why, and this book will give them some new tools to express their feelings so they aren’t overwhelmed. Here’s an excerpt from the Note for Parents, Caregivers, Teachers, and Counselors: As we learn more about the impacts of climate change, at times it may be frightening or sad and make us nervous or angry or more. You may experience all the feelings under the sun. These feelings are totally natural and healthy. Parenting and teaching are challenging, but raising children on a planet that’s heating up can feel downright daunting. We want to be guides and guardians as we teach our children about the world around them, and we also feel the natural instinct to protect them from threats and suffering. Climate change poses a dilemma: How can we help our children move forward with love, wonder, and resilience while knowing that climate change will likely impose tremendous difficulties in their future? All the Feelings Under the Sun presents realistic and age-appropriate climate science and answers the questions that kids are asking about their changing world. It also offers effective coping tools in the form of exercises, each of which supports their curiosity and helps them build emotional resilience as their climate-change awareness grows. It can be helpful if you read the book in its entirety as well. If you share their understanding of the material and techniques presented here, you’ll be better equipped to help them with questions that might arise. Climate change is a challenging topic for most adults too, so reading the book will likely bring into focus your own complex feelings about the increasing ecological damage being done to our planet. Reading this book provides the opportunity to address environmental concerns as a family by engaging in eco-wise conversations and projects that everyone can participate in. The most important factor in helping kids cope emotionally with the reality of climate change is to empower them to become part of the solution. Helping them focus on what they can influence and control provides them with safety and reassurance—and teaches them a valuable life skill so they’ll be able to think, reflect, and act effectively throughout their lives. Kids also need a safe emotional place to express their vulnerability. They may voice fears or sadness about loss of wildlife, natural disasters, water or air pollution, the safety of friends and family, and even their pets. It’s not helpful to tell them there’s no reason to be upset.Read More
Expert Guidance for You and Your Anxious Child
Learning the difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist, and social worker or understanding clinical terms such as cognitive–behavioral therapy can be overwhelming. Finding the right resources is critical to addressing a child’s mental health needs and moving forward toward effective care.
In How to Find Mental Health Care for Your Child, seasoned child psychologist and author Ellen B. Braaten offers clear and expert guidance to help anxious parents navigate the complexities of mental health care.
Experiencing emotions is a vital part of being human. Emotions give us information, motivate us and prepare us to act, and give others information about how we are feeling. However, emotions can also be difficult to handle, particularly when the intensity of the emotion grows beyond what we can easily manage, as well as when they are more painful emotions like sadness, anxiety, shame, or guilt. When painful emotions become very intense (i.e., become “big” emotions), they tend to lead to impulsive behaviors, hard to control emotional thoughts, and intense physical sensations, such as tight muscles, an upset stomach, or a headache. Learning to manage painful, big emotions and particularly, to catch and soothe those emotions before they get too big, is an important ability for children to develop. Read on for tips on how to teach your child to handle their big emotions. Name and Normalize Big Emotions We all experience emotions and they are important and helpful - even when they are not easy to experience. Teach your child that we all experience emotions and that they are important and helpful - even when they are not easy to experience. Brainstorm together about the emotions they experience and how they might be helpful. For example, feeling a little nervous before a test motivates them to study. Feeling guilty after saying something unkind reminds them to be more gentle in the future. Crying when they are sad lets an adult know that they might need help or want to talk. If your child is not sure how to tell the difference between emotions, link emotions to body sensations. For example, anger often shows up as heat in the body while anxiety often causes tight muscles including tense, hunched shoulders and fists or a clenched jaw. The next time your child is experiencing an emotion, gently ask where they are feeling it in their body. This, along with practice noticing and naming emotions, is a foundational step of emotion awareness and regulation. Teach Coping Skills Teach your child a few simple coping skills to soothe their big emotions. It is helpful to match the skill to the intensity of the emotion being experienced as different skills help with different levels of emotional intensity. Kids also often benefit from a visual, such as an emotional thermometer where small (i.e., less intense) emotions are on the bottom part of the thermometer, medium are in the middle, and big are on the top. A helpful coping skill for when emotions are less intense or “small,” is to practice helpful “self-talk.” This skill can be adapted depending on the situation, but the basic approach is to acknowledge that you are having a tough time and to encourage or coach yourself as you would a friend in the situation. For example, if your child is struggling with homework they might say “this is really hard! At the same time, I’m doing my best and can ask my teacher for help tomorrow.” As another example,Read More