While no one wants a disaster or a stressful event to come knocking on his or her doors, coping extreme distress in the wake of a tragedy is no ordinary task. Being uncontrollable in nature, tragedies can take the form of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and droughts, or manmade havocs, such as terrorism, war, violence, murder and abuse.
The sheer magnitude of anxiety, stress and tension experienced during a tragedy can render people helpless and powerless, especially children. Unlike adults, a child or an adolescent does not have the experience or the maturity to put things into perspective.
Therefore, it is unlikely that they are in a position to constructively deal with the consequences of a tragedy. In addition, because each child responds to a tragedy differently, some are at risk of deciphering it as a personal danger compared to others. Therefore, it is essential to teach coping measures to children to face any adverse situation.
Open communication – a way to safeguard children from anxiety
The times of distress offer a unique opportunity that could be utilized by parents to teach positive lessons about life to their children. The exposure to such situations builds their innate capacity to deal with any kind of catastrophic event. For children learning to face a variety of emotions like anxiety, fear and insecurity, it is crucial for them to trust their parents to constructively cope with a crisis. Therefore, parents have a huge responsibility of strengthening their relationship with children.
The open discussion on personal tragedies not only allows the child to be more self-reliant, but also prepares him or her for any kind of adverse circumstances escalated by unaddressed anxiety in the long run.
Teens and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the anxiety triggered by their personal tragedies. Being an impressionable mind, it is essential to provide accurate information to children to avoid building up of false perceptions. Besides providing emotional support, parents through candid discussions can help them understand the situation better and cope with the tragedy. During such moments, some of the things to keep in mind include:
- Avoid providing any misleading sense of reassurance to children. Instead, explain them that tragedies are rare in a simple language. Be sensitive about words and actions to be used during such discussions, as children emulate their parents.
- Restrict exposure to media to prevent the exacerbation of anxiety due to the coverage of tragic incidents. Any kind of dreadful report or news on the internet, television, etc. can trigger the sense of panic and insecurity. Parents can rather motivate their children to express their feelings through creative activities, like painting, poetry, letter writing, etc., during prime time to protect them from graphic details of such incidents.
- Console children suffering from anxiety through words and actions to make them realize their importance even in the time of crisis. It is essential to convey to them that their safety and security is the top priority. Moreover, parents should allow them to state their questions and concerns.
Though teenagers are better equipped to assess the extent of a tragedy, it would be inaccurate to expect them to fully comprehend and mitigate the effects. Adolescents affected by a tragedy may regress to older habits out of fear and anxiety. Parents should encourage them to talk about their feelings and vent out their concerns. Adolescents often seek the company of their peers for support; therefore, inviting their friends and families to discuss the tragedy could help the teenagers to cope their anxiety in a better and effective way.
Establish an anxiety-free life
Experiencing tragedies, especially during childhood, can spill over into one’s adulthood when not addressed effectively. They have the ability to create a sense of panic and anxiety that can coerce people to respond to dangerous situations, such as disasters, personal loss, etc., in a negative way. In fact, deep-rooted unaddressed anxiety is a major risk factor for the development of full-blown anxiety disorders.