Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Helping Young Children Cope with Loss and Tragedy In the Wake of the Yarnell Fire
When it comes to worldwide disasters or community crisis, it’s easy to think that children are naive about what’s happening in the world around them. The truth is—they are more aware than we believe.
According to Debbie Heaton, author, parent educator and a master’s level therapist currently employed with AzCA, children are very sensitive to how their parents feel.
In response to the Yarnell fire tragedy that has impacted the Prescott community, Arizona’s Children Association is sponsoring a group later this month at the Prescott Public Library. The class will be presented by AzCA’s Parents as Teachers program for parents to learn how to help their toddlers and preschoolers cope with loss and tragedy.
As stated by Heaton, the news of a tragedy is often presented in such a way that it is confusing for young children. Children are unable to distinguish between what is real and what is fictitious.
“Children often become anxious because they don’t comprehend the process of videotape replays, camera angles and close-ups. Any televised tragedy seems close to home to them because the horrific scenes are taking place on the TV set in their own family room.”
When tragedies occur, children need to be reassured that their parents are doing everything they can to ensure their safety.
“It’s harder than usual if we’re struggling with our own emotions about what has happened,” said Heaton. “Adults are often surprised that their own reactions to current tragedies are so powerful, but great loss and devastation in the news often reawaken our own earlier losses and fears, even some we might have discarded or forgotten.”
Gradually, as we become more self-assured, so will our children. The class will offer ways for parents to gain confidence in speaking with their children about loss and tragedy. Parents will learn the tools needed to help their children cope with the grief and make them feel secure.
“Most likely they will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents are their children’s first teachers and the most influential person in their lives. This gives parents the opportunity to shape the future by guiding them wisely through the coping process. As parents, take care of yourselves and your emotions, and then follow the useful tips provided to assist your children to better deal with the current situation.”
If you are interested in attending the group in Prescott on July 30th or would like more information, contact Rainee Crabtree at 928.533.5417.
Due to the loss of the firefighters, as well as, the many families who have lost their homes, AzCA’s staff has also organized a hygiene drive and has planned a day of service to help with recovery efforts. Hygiene products can be dropped off at the local AzCA office (440 N. Washington Avenue) or the Walgreens on Sheldon (178 E. Sheldon Street), as well as, Red Arrow Real Estate (1107 E. Gurley Street). For those in other parts of the state who wish to contribute, please donate online or note that your donation is for the Prescott Hygiene Drive.
For more information on AzCA or Parents As Teachers, please visit www.arizonaschildren.org. If you are interested in reading Debbie Heaton’s article on explaining tragic events to young children, click here.