Fear and anger surround us these days: on the phone with friends, on social media, on television, in the newspapers, at school , at the grocery store, on the radio....we seem surrounded. How this affects us, our children, our grandchildren, our great/grandchildren is no mystery. Children may display the affects by having sleepless nights or being frightened by everyday happenings.. Each child has his/her own way of showing that they are upset. We can pretend that a disturbing issue does not exist, and/or try to protect our young ones from hearing, seeing and/or knowing about it. But in these days of instant everything, that is hardly possible.
It seems that each generation has their own fears and worries. The 30's had depression and the holocaust; the forties had WWII; the fifties had the atom bomb and McCarthyism; the sixties had race riots. We have faced depressed times, threats of war and being involved in war since the 70s. These days our children worry about being shot in school, climate change, being homeless, catching the z virus and /or their friends and families being picked up by ICE for being "illegal". Each time we try to find ways to shelter our children from the fear and anger that is a result of these happenings. And it is becoming even more difficult now, given the political climate and the abundance of available media. So what can we do to help children during these difficult times?
We know that fear and anger are rooted in a sense of helplessness; a lack of control over events, other people's actions, nature, disease, and/or disaster. It is important for children to know that you also worry about these things, but you have taken action to prevent harm to them, as much as possible.
For example, you have provided safe shelter with smoke alarms, their immunizations are up-to -date, you don't drive and text, everyone wears safety belts in the car, you know your friendly neighbors and help them when you can, you vote your conscience, and, perhaps, you know your neighborhood police officer. If you have firearms, you have them securely locked and out of reach of the children.
It is important that you tell children that it is YOUR AND/OR THEIR PARENT’S job to keep them as safe as possible, especially when you are talking to the very young. Even when you are not with them, you or their parents have chosen a place, like school, after-school care, friends houses, after-school classes and/or caregivers, where they will be protected.
But never promise what you can't deliver (there could be earthquakes, or other natural disasters, etc. and we have NO control over that). Hopefully, you have made your surroundings, as safe as possible: fire alarms, door locks, telephone emergency numbers posted, how to call 911, etc.
You know your great/grandchild(ren) best and you can be alert to any changes in the child's behavior or mood which can be a signal to explore a situation further and offer appropriate reassurance. Grandparents and great-grandparents can take steps to lessen the feeling of helplessness that fuel fears and anger. We can discuss the active roles we are taking in our communities, working to alleviate the causes of some of these fears. Aside from these actions helping US deal with any of these challenging situations, it can also help children feel more secure because people they trust are trying to make a difference
Most of all, be generous with hugs, reassurances and ideas that comfort children
so that they are able to participate and enjoy their family and friends.