Positive tools for thriving families.

How are we explaining to young kids what just happened in Orlando?  Another senseless tragedy has occurred, this time in Orlando, and our deepest sympathies go out to all the families who have lost loved ones and the Orlando community.

As I watch the news and read the papers, I keep asking myself, what about the kids? How are the children in Orlando being impacted? Who is talking to them? Who is explaining to them what just happened in Orlando? How is the community helping the little ones understand why their parent, teacher, babysitter, or neighbor is no longer with them? Especially the youngest ones… how do you explain such a violent and traumatic death to a young child?

In fact, what are parents and teachers saying to children across the nation? Children are being exposed to the Orlando shooting via television, the internet, friends, and adult conversations. The Brady Foundation reports that since Sandy Hook, 160 schools have experienced shootings. How should we explain this violence and death to our younger children in ways they can understand and cope with given their innocence and as yet immature developmental abilities?

As we mourn the loss, it is essential that we not forget the silent victims, the innocent bystanders, the children who are watching, listening, and feeling from the sidelines. We need to continue to support and help young children cope cognitively and emotionally with this tragedy. Here are some suggestions:

  • We can explain the shooting to children in simple, non-graphic facts. Kids know what happened. Keeping it a ‘secret’ or making up a story about it may only add confusion and mistrust.
  • We can use simple words and simple sentences that avoid hate and racism.
  • We can tell children that this is a very sad event that should never have happened.
  • We can ask children to ask us any questions they might have about what happened or about themselves and their loved ones.
  • We can reassure and comfort children in telling them that this violence was not an every day occurrence, and that children are safe.
  • We can reinforce and tell children that the adults are working hard to keep all children safe.
  • We can turn our televisions off while children are in the room, and make sure adult conversations take place with only adults in the room.
  • We can help children mourn and grieve, and process their thoughts and feelings via books on loss, puppets, drawings, and stories. Children process through ‘displacement’, in that it is safer to express thoughts and feelings in non-direct vs. direct ways.
  • We can write letters, draw pictures, and send toys to children in Orlando.
  • We need to focus on delivering community tools and making mental health interventions readily available to young children to help them process and cope with gun violence.

Many mental health professionals and organizations are committed to helping children and families cope with chronic gun violence in our nation. As a clinician and an author, I am in the process of publishing a therapeutic children’s picture book, Where Did My Friend Go? Helping Children Cope With A Traumatic Death. My hope is to make this book freely available as soon as possible to the children in Orlando via sponsorships of organizations and the larger community. If you are interested in learning more about this book and being a sponsor, please reach out to info@aspiringfamilies.com

The children in Orlando are going to need tremendous support in mourning the loss of their loved ones, and in grieving with their community. Our children around the nation are also going to need significant support in comprehending what just happened in Orlando. In the past 24 hours, I have had kids ask me, “What about us? Are we safe? What if it happened here? At my school? Or my grocery store?” We need to comfort and assure our children that they are safe.

Most importantly, if kids are living in fear and worry that it could happen again, at any time, to them and their loved ones, we need to continue to send the powerful message and deliver the actions that will keep our children and families safe.

 

 

 


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  • Exceptional, impressive, thoroughly 'kid friendly' from beginning to end, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" should be a part of every community library Parenting Studies collections. For families with young children who are having to deal with divorce, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" will prove to be an invaluable and instructive aid.

    Editor in Chief - Midwest Book Review

  • Those of us parenting, working with, or caring for children experiencing divorce will welcome Family Changes as a unique, positive, and creative resource for helping children understand and cope with this complicated transition. The comprehensive note to adults effectively explains how children work through painful questions and feelings. The touching story—with the endearing Zoey and her attempt to understand a very grown up topic—ends with extremely helpful follow up questions that will be highly valued by parents, child advocates, therapists, and others who wish to better serve children during this difficult time. I highly recommend this book to parents and professionals.

    Sacha Coupet, Ph.D., J.D. Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Family Law, Loyola University, Chicago, IL

  • Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children is an outstanding book that is gentle, positive, and validating for both children and adults. With an excellent and informative parent guide about the value of talking to children about their feelings, a highly sensitive and engaging story with exquisite illustrations, and an effective list of questions that children typically ask, this book is essential reading for divorcing families, and for therapists and advocates working with children of divorce.

    Sandra A. Graham-Bermann, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Michigan

  • Family Changes is an inspiring and exceptional book on divorce. It explains divorce in a developmentally appropriate and comforting language that validates children's complex feelings about divorce. Dr. Maker's expertise and years of experience working with children who are coping with the grief and confusion that often accompany divorce shine through in every page. I highly recommend this book to divorcing parents, schools, libraries, and professionals working with children of divorce.

    Martha Crowe, M.A. Child Development, Institute for Public Health, San Diego State University, CA

  • Dr. Maker has brought us this excellent child-centric educational book about how to navigate the changes of a family undergoing divorce. Dr. Maker takes us through this experience from the child's point of view and shares the gift of positive transformation that can occur during this life-changing time. The illustrations are sublime and the topic is handled so gently and ingeniously. Of course, it is written by a child psychologist with the gift of creativity. It's a book that every child therapist, library, school, and families going through a divorce should have on their shelves.

    Krista Royabal, M.D., Psychiatrist, Executive Medical Director, True Life Center for Wellbeing, CA

  • Based on the typical emotional turbulence a child feels from separation or divorce, Family Changes receives high recommendation as the first title that adults should turn to in the effort to explain, explore, and support a child's feelings in the matter, concluding with a list of 'process questions' which adults can use to further enhance the story line's overall approach.

    CA Bookwatch/Donovan’s Literary Services/Recommended Reading

  • The story touches on several key issues that children worry about - will their parents still love them, will they have two homes now, did they somehow cause the divorce, etc. The book also opens with a straightforward Note to Adults and ends with a list of questions that adults can discuss with children. Often books that do a good job of explaining divorce and separation are so focused on the child's point-of-view, that they don't offer any advice for the parents, caregivers, and teachers that are trying to help the child makes sense of it all. Family Changes avoids that problem and gives good guidelines for adults. I would recommend this book to parents and other family members, educators, and counselors.

    NetGalley Reviews/The Fairview Review - Librarian

  • This story is filled with little moments that reflect the nature of children perfectly. If you need to explain what it means to be divorced or separated to your child then this is one of the best ways to do that. The book is filled with relatable emotions and questions that a lot of children will have if their family is going through a separation. Dr. Maker’s years of experience are evident in the story as she masterfully addresses many common concerns for children experiencing a divorce in their family.

    The Littlest Bookshelf