How Do You Help?

   Written by on June 16, 2017 at 1:08 pm
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Are your kids watching disturbing news events?  Are you worried about how you should interact with your kids?  In today’s world of immediate access to a graphic description of world happenings, you can guarantee that your kids have seen disturbing images.  The news is full of stories of violent crimes, fierce accidents, and severe natural disasters that are disturbing for adults to hear and can have an even greater impact on children.  The recent attack at the Ariana Grande concert is just one example.

 Aureen Wagner, PhD recommends as a parent, first, you remain as calm as possible.  Second, watch and listen to your child to understand how upset he or she is.  Young people react to trauma differently than adults.  Some may react right away; others may show signs that they are having a difficult time much later.

Have you seen any of the signs of increased anxiety?  Anxiety could cause your children to show an increase in emotions.  This could include crying unexpectedly.  Anxiety can also cause an increase in irritability or a rise in anger.  He or she may begin to complain about physical ailments, such as headaches or stomach aches.  Your son or daughter may begin to have problems sleeping through the night or have nightmares.  Anxiety can also cause a child to be clingy when he/she must be away from his or her parents.

The government agency SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) suggests that the key is for adults to be supportive and to provide reassurance to help children through a traumatic time.

To be supportive and reassuring, you first need to understand your child’s feelings about the event.  A method of gaining this understanding is to have him or her write a story describing their perception of the event.  Depending on their age, you could make a game out of this by having your child pretend to be a news reporter.  Or, a news artist, and have your child draw a picture of the event showing his or her feelings.

Talking openly is important.  Dr. Wagner suggests that you talk about a traumatic event as open and accurately as possible without going into graphic details.  Listen to your child.  Answer their questions without giving him or her more information than your child asks about.  Invite your child to talk about the tragedy.  Give them permission to bring up the information provided by the media as well as what their friends have told them.  Talk with your kids about all aspects of the event.  Include talking about the people who helped and how the community helped during the tragedy.

Give your children permission to talk about their fears.  Let your child know that it is normal to feel upset, scared, or angry.  If teenagers want to watch television or read news online about a traumatic event, be available to them, especially to discuss what they are seeing and reading.  Ask your children about their fears.  Allow them to express their fears without minimizing the fears.  Acknowledge their fears.  Be honest about your own fears.  As an example, I can understand how that would be scary for you.  I’m sure it will become less scary soon.

Help your children develop a positive project to help the victims.  An example would be for your children to select unused toys or clothing to send to the victims.  Help your child write a letter of encouragement to the victims or include the families in their prays.

SAMHSA pamphlet Tips For Talking With And Helping Children And Youth Cope After A Disaster Or Traumatic Event is a great age specific resource for helping you understand your role.  The pamphlet can be downloaded at  An experienced counselor can also help.

Finally yet importantly, look to your local church for support.  The church fellowship can help your child understand that God is a present help in times of trouble.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  Psalm 91:1-2

Call us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions; our phone number is 434-808-2637.

About Cheryl & Dennis Gowin

Cheryl Gowin, Counselor and Dennis Gowin, Director of Discovery Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues or questions at 434-808-2426 or


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