The Raising of America (www. raisingofamerica.org)) was released just in time for the holidays. It’s an excellent resource for anyone resolving to use the New Year to make a difference in children’s lives. A commitment to any of the following endeavors can offer new hope for youngsters worn down by the adversity in their lives.
- Learn to regulate and control the fear generated by living in a dread-inducing age.
Whether living in a landscape marred by wars, a neighborhood torn apart by economic insecurity and violence, or simply persistent exposure to overly demanding expectations and performance, children need adults around them who can offer them comfort and support. Adults have a responsibility to manage their own terror. This means finding safe ways to manage stress and reduce anxiety. Yoga, physical movement, time outside, journaling, meditation, involvement in the arts are all tried and true ways of achieving the emotional regulation needed to remain calm and connected to children.
- Practice perspective taking.
The “wow” factor associated with acts of terror triggers the brain’s fight-flight-freeze response, and draws attention away from ordinary and reasonably safe everyday routines. The constant replaying of these frightening events in the media keeps them in conscious awareness, and eventually results in cognitive distortions that can limit one’s sense of optimism and hope. Adults have a responsibility to avoid over estimations of danger. Instead, they need to draw children’s attention toward positive experiences and meaningful relationships. Point out examples of people being kind to one another, encourage participation in activities that build physical strength and endurance, acknowledge situations where children avoided potentially dangerous situations by making good choices. Have a plan for addressing emergencies at home, teach them basic First Aid, and turn off the television!
(For more information on how to address cognitive distortions, see Friedman, Richard National Cognitive Therapy. (NYT December 6, 2015).
- Know the Facts About Gun Violence.
According to Nicholas Kristof (NYT, December 6, 2015) on average 92 people a day in America die from gunshot wounds. Every 30 minutes in America a child is killed or wounded by a gun. And the number of Americans shot by toddlers last year was 265, as compared to 151 shot by terrorists. Surely, this is not what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they guaranteed a citizen’s right to bear arms. Adults have a responsibility to ensure children’s physical safety. Gun owners can reduce accidental injuries in the home by ensuring that firearms are unloaded when not in actual use. Store guns in a locked location that is inaccessible to children or others who may seek to use the firearms without the owner’s permission. Store ammunition in a locked location AWAY from the firearms. Organizations like the Newtown Action Alliance (newtownaction.org), Moms Demand Action (momsdemandaction.org), and Parents Against Gun Violence (www.parentsagainstgunviolence.com) offer interested parties an opportunity to learn more about gun violence and its effects on the quality of children’s lives.
Remember, trauma is not caused by an overwhelming event. Rather, it occurs when adults are unable to restore children’s sense of safety and security by their unwavering ability to offer their protection.
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Trauma-Sensitive Schools: Learning Communities Transforming Children’s Lives is now available at http://www.Amazon.com.