In the last two weeks we have been repeatedly confronted with the legacy of gun violence and ongoing, communal trauma in this country. The three events in recent days have happened in the kinds of everyday places that should be safe — the grocery store, church, and school. How do we talk to children and adolescents about gun violence, racialized violence, and senseless tragedy? Parents and caregivers are helping their children process their feelings alongside their own, and signs of anxiety are different in children and adolescents when compared with adults. Pastoral care for children begins with pastoral care for their caregivers, and the resources below are offered to support parents and families—please share.
Supporting One Another in Violent Times: Queries & Community Meeting
May 29 @ 8:00 pm – 9:15 pm
The events of the past weeks, months and years, have overwhelmed many of us with emotions that range from fear to fury, from despair to a desire to change our systems and more. PYM is offering an on-line space to gather together for consolation and comfort.
Processing in Developmentally Appropriate Ways
Children and teens will have different exposure to and understanding of these disturbing incidents, and may feel anxiety, confusion, fear, sadness, or anger, and have questions about what they see and hear in the media and from friends. Children cannot always articulate their feelings, and they may show us how they are feeling through play or behaviors. Their anxiety may show up as: anger, negativity, difficulty sleeping (particularly falling asleep), defiance, and lack of focus. For adolescent youth, symptoms of anxiety may include recurring fears and worries about routine parts of everyday life, irritability, trouble concentrating, withdrawal, and complaints about stomachaches or headaches.
* Some practical advice for parents and caregivers
- Parents and adults need to first deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress.
- In PYM, adults seeking support can reach out to the Friends Counseling Service.
- Try and keep routines as normal as possible. Children gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
- Be present. Listen to your children’s fears and concerns.
- Depending on their age, limit exposure to television and the news but be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle with simple, honest answers.
- Reassure kids that the world is a good place to be (individuals are responsible for violent actions).
- Reaffirm attachments and relationships.
Resources for Adults Supporting Children and Teens
- Talking to Kids About Gun Violence from Repair the World, a Jewish service movement, includes advice for different ages.
- Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting from the American Psychological Association
- Resources for Talking About Race, Racism, and Racialized Violence with Kids was compiled by Center for Racial Justice in Education and includes important resources for supporting BIPOC children, like the podcast “Supporting Kids Of Color In the Wake Of Racialized Violence” from EmbraceRace.
- An Activity Book for African American Families: Helping Children Cope with Crisis (download)
- Anastasia Higginbotham, who visited PYM in November 2021, has two books in her “Ordinary Terrible Things” series that speak to recent events: Death Is Stupid and Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness
- Spiritual Practices for Use During a Traumatic News Event from Traci Smith
- Isaiah and the Worry Pack — Learning to Trust God with All Our Fears by Ruth Goring
- A Kids Book About Anxiety by Ross Szabo from the “A Kids Book About” series. The inside covers suggests, ”This book is best read together, grownup and kid.”
Making Faithful Practices Available
Children need us to hear their concerns, and we can provide reassurance even if we do not have answers. Lifting up our worry and anxiety in prayer is another way to acknowledge those feelings and place them in the care of our Quaker faith. These coloring pages “Prayers For When You Feel Anxious” includes both suggested prayers and three different sets of images for mindful coloring. This lesson plan about meeting for worship suggests that our worship as Friends is a container that is strong enough to hold big feelings —even hard ones—and the lesson could be adapted to help process recent events and heavy hearts, alongside encouragement to continue finding the Light in our world.
* Sources: Everytown for Gun Safety, American School Counselor Association