Witnessing a tragic event can affect a child’s thoughts and behaviours. So, how do you help him deal with tragedies or unfortunate events successfully?
By Arun Sharma
While most parents protect their children from traumas or tragedies, some aren’t able to effectively do so. As a result, children end up emotionally scarred. Also, nowadays, thanks to access to various forms of media, even children who haven’t had traumatic experiences are no strangers to such events. In such a scenario, a heightened sense of imagination coupled with ignorance of how to deal with tragic situations can adversely affect a child’s thoughts and behaviour.
Joshi et al published an article titled, ‘TV coverage of tragedies: what is the impact on children?’, in the journal Indian Pediatrics (2008). According to the article, “Children who witness violence directly or indirectly may experience unpredictable affronts to their sense of safety, wellbeing, and bodily integrity, disrupting the normal developmental trajectory of childhood. Such reactions to trauma typically vary by age and developmental level and should be viewed within the context of the social-cognitive processes occurring during each developmental stage.”
In young children, the emotional after-effects of exposure to a tragedy may manifest as thumb-sucking, bedwetting, separation anxiety, sleep difficulties, clingy behaviour and so on. Adolescents, on the contrary, may try to isolate themselves or downplay the effect a traumatic event has had on them.
It is the responsibility of parents to provide their child with proper support and guidance to come out emotionally strong and unscathed from a tragedy. Here are a few things you can do to help your child deal with the emotional upheaval that usually follows a tragedy.
By not offering their support during times of tragedy, parents can leave their child vulnerable to undesirable emotional consequences. It is important for parents to stand by their child and equip her with necessary coping skills to wade through any crisis. Parents should also remember that, while some children may get over a crisis in a short time, others may need their support a little longer to feel reassured. Being with your child and supporting her emotionally during a crisis would not only make her feel safe and reassured, but also create a strong parent–child bond.
According to the article mentioned earlier, “While children cannot be completely protected from outside events, parents can help them feel safe and help them to better understand the world around them.”
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