Tag Archives: relationships

7 Tips for Talking to Children About Mass Shootings

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With great sadness I read of another mass shooting. 58 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds more were injured in the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday, October 1, 2017. As adults, it’s difficult to understand the hows and the whys of these events. For children, it’s even more difficult.

Young children, under the age of 8, have a difficult time differentiating between fact and fiction on screens including television, computers, smartphones, and game systems.

Children over the age of 9 have greater understand, but when overexposed to information about shootings and other traumatic events are at risk for developing anxiety, depression, anger, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Below are 7 tips for talking to children about mass shootings and traumatic events.

1. Limit exposure to news.

If possible, do not allow children under the age of 9 to watch the news.

If older children are watching news, make a point of watching with them. Take time to help them express their thoughts and feelings about the information. Provide additional information from a calm, adult perspective. Point out positive media images if appropriate.

Engage children in non-news related activities: Watch movies on DVD, play board games, go for bike rides, go to the park.

2. Reassure children that they are cared for and safe.

Remind them that there are more good people in the world then bad. Encourage them to make a list of all of the supportive people in their lives.

3. Validate their feelings.

Let them know that it is okay to be sad or scared, but they are and will be okay.

4. Identify ways to give back.

Doing something productive can help manage feelings. Encourage children to write a letter of encouragement to the injured, collect soda cans and donate the proceeds to a medical fund to help victims, or other ideas that they may generate.

5. Check in with them periodically.

Ask children if they have any questions. Be sure to let them know that you are open to talking more if they want.

6. Monitor adult conversations.

Children hear more than adults realize and can often misunderstand adult reactions to traumatic events. Have adult conversations in private spaces where you cannot be overheard. If a child overhears part of a conversation, be open and honest about your feelings while continuing to reassure the child of their safety.

Some indicators that your child needs professional help includes:

  • Persistent worry or anxiety about their safety or the of their friends and family.
  • Continuing to focus on thoughts of the incident, including seeking out news information, talking about the event, or drawing pictures of the event.
  • Significant changes in behavior including inattentiveness, irritability, sleeping too much or too little, lack of appetite, etc.
  • Persistent headaches or stomachaches.
  • Increased sensitivity to sounds.
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Making the Shift: An Evening Ritual

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Making the Shift: An Evening Ritual

harmony-1229893_1920In a recent post I discussed the value of a morning ritual to support focus, creativity, and peace. I have found that a brief evening ritual can support the transition from work to home.

Working in community mental health care can be challenging and sometimes stressful. It is important to set aside the content of the day and leave it in the office so that you can be fully present at home with family and friends.

I first recognized the need for an end of the day ritual when I was providing mental health services to children and families in their homes. I often ended my day at a client’s home before beginning the commute home.

On my hour long drive, I would find myself processing the contents of client sessions, planning my work for the next day, and reformulating treatment plans. I would arrive home worn out and mentally still at work.

After several months of my commute, I noticed a ramshackle barn about halfway between home and work. The old red barn had started to crumble and nature was doing its best to reclaim the space. Vines grew through the building, up and out of holes that had developed in the roof. I first noticed the barn when the vines began to flower in the spring. Hundreds of tiny white flowers blanketed the roof of the barn.

That ramshackle barn in the middle of nowhere became the trigger for my first evening ritual.

Rituals require structure to be effective and I created a simple rule that cared for my budding ritual. Each night as I traveled home from work, I allowed my mind to process and wander through all the sessions, meetings, and tasks of the day. However, when the old barn came in sight, all thoughts of work were relegated to the back of my mind and I turned my focus to the tasks of my life. My mind began to make dinner plans, consider the route for walking the dog, think about weeding the garden, and creating a list of things to pack on my upcoming vacation. If work thoughts crept in, they were shooed away and I refocused on personal thoughts and plans.

A couple of years ago, I made a shift in my work to clinic based treatment. This has created a number of changes in my life including eliminating a lengthy commute. However, with the loss of the commute also came the loss of my evening ritual.

My new ritual is just as simple, but takes place before I leave the office for the day. Each night after the last client has left, I straighten my office so that it is ready for the first client the next day. Chairs are realigned, toys replaced on shelves, and the markers and colored pencils are sorted back into their cups on the art table. I gather my personal belongings to take home and clear my desk of everything except my notebook. Taking a couple of centering breaths, I consider any tasks or ideas that I want to follow up on the next day and jot them in the notebook before returning it to the desk drawer. Having cleared my mind, I pull the cord on the lamp to turn out the light, lock the door and step out of my office door into my personal life.

A WARM Morning Ritual

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IMG_0409Those who know me well are cognizant that I do not naturally lean towards rituals, habits and organization. I thrive in creativity and fluidity.

However, in my professional practice, I have discovered the value of daily rituals. I have come to discover that well planned rituals can create smooth transitions from home life to professional life and back again.

My morning ritual has metamorphosed over the years and settled into a simple four part practice: WARM.

Write

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way encourages a daily writing practice she calls “Morning Pages.” Part journal, part mind-dump, these three pages of long hand writing help to clear the mind of all the extraneous information, fears and concerns. It creates a clear space to begin the day.

Affirmations

Affirmations are an effective way to focus our intentions for our lives and our work. They support healthy change affecting mind, body, and spirit. I use a combination of 2-3 affirmation statements each day which correspond with my desired growth in my professional life, personal life, and physical health. Affirmations can be modified as needed to support current goals.

Read

Knowledge is power. While working to establish the University of Virginia in 1817, Thomas Jefferson wrote “that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, and tht knowledge is happiness.” Reading a variety of materials increases knowledge. I encourage reading of professional journals, novels, literature, non-fiction, meditations, spiritual texts, and more. An additional benefit, according to the University of Sussex, is that just 6 minutes of reading per day can reduce stress levels by 68%.

Meditate

Meditation reduces stress, increases clarity and creativity, as well as increasing mindfulness and tolerance. Meditation does not have to be a complicated process. There are numerous articles and books written on beginning meditation, but a couple of simple ways to get started is by setting aside five minutes to focus on deep breathing, listen calming music and focus on one element of the music, or combine with affirmation work by focusing on your affirmation with each breath.

Take some time this week and begin to develop or refine your own morning routine. Add or change one element at a time to make sustainable changes. Feel free to comment below on your current morning ritual or on the impact of any changes you make.

A Mindful Valentine’s Day

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{Photo taken at Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, Washington 2017}

 

Valentine’s Day is often filled with hearts, flowers and high expectations. A recent visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit in Seattle reminded me of the complexity of relationships. Like this chandelier art piece, life swirls and changes. The deeper you look into your life, the more you see.

Take a few minutes to focus on the picture above. Still yourself and notice the changing shapes and colors.

Be mindful today and go out in love.