by Olivia Updegrove
Children and youth are not adults. There is a critical fine line between making our kids feel safe and still helping our children be aware. For children, the brain is not fully developed and thus the information and images being processed can have a damaging effect. Making sure to take time for a young person to process in a healthy way is important.
As we continue to deal with tough situations, here are some reminders from Ministry Across Generations, a ministry of Disciples Home Missions, as your young people process.
If you can, turn off the media. If you can’t with older youth, then watch with them if possible. Process together, but with an awareness that adults and youth are not the same.
Remind them that they are safe. Even though no one can be 100% safe, and you do not need to lie to them, the neurons in our brains need to process a sense of safety to be able to respond in a healthier way.
Respond to a young person based on their age and questions. If a child asks, “Will I get killed at school tomorrow?” don’t respond with your feelings of fear and anger. Remind them of the safety guidelines at schools, the locked doors, the teachers, and the knowledge that people do all they can to protect them. If older, then talk through ways to make safe choices.
Acknowledge their feelings and yours. It is okay to be scared. It is okay to be sad and angry. At the same time, share with your children about the helpers. Share some hopeful moments that may be hard to see. Spend some quality time with each other.