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Terrorism and the Pediatric Patient

December 7th, 2015  |  The Blog

Let’s take a look at emotional health this week. With the crazy world around us, adults are nervous and concerned about their safety and well-being but most adults are able to fend for themselves. What about the pediatric population who hears the concern in their parents or care-takers voices? What can they truly process and how can we, as adults, make them feel safe?

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has recently published a list of tips to help children cope with terrorism and threats to their safety and well-being. It is important that we keep pediatric patients feeling safe and secure at all times, to the best of our adult ability.

What Should Adults Do?

This is a list of NASP’s recommendations to help children cope with the fear and anxiety that accompany terrorism in their world:

  • Avoid appearing overly anxious or scared
  • Frequently reassure them that they are safe
  • Talk positively about the people who are in charge of their safety like police, firefighters, emergency personnel, doctors, nurses and government officials
  • Let them know that it is okay to be concerned and let them talk about their fears
  • Be honest and do not pretend that there has not been a serious event. Not telling children the truth can back-fire because they think that an event was too bad for them to know about
  • Only share the facts; do not embellish or over-speculate about anything
  • Do not stereotype the attackers; children can develop prejudice based upon the information relayed by trusted adults
  • Share only developmentally appropriate information
  • Be a good listener, regardless of the age of the child
  • Follow a normal routine in all aspects of life, home, school and social
  • Restrict viewing the event via social media or news reported from one source
  • Monitor a child’s emotional state; appetite, sleep patterns and behavior are good indications about his/her coping mechanisms especially grief, anxiety or emotional discomfort
  • Be highly aware of children who are at a greater risk of emotional instability; those with previous post-traumatic experiences or personal loss, history of depression or other mental illness and those with special needs or at risk for suicide
  • Provide an opportunity for the child to thank emergency workers or responders such as sending card to the wounded or thank you notes to the emergency workers and healthcare professionals
  • Communicate with all caregivers like teachers, school nurse, school counselor and daycare providers, as well as any other influential adults in the child’s life
  • Be aware of personal stress and keep it in check but, at the same time, monitor personal feelings of anxiety, anger and grief. If needed, seek professional help because the care-providing adults need to be in the proper state of mind and wellness in order to comfort and guide the pediatric population
  • Proper sleep, nutrition and exercise or playtime is critical to dealing with the stress and impact of the threat of terrorism

The world we live in needs to be safe and secure for future generations. As healthcare providers (and parents or responsible adults), it is our duty to keep children feeling safe.

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