Continuum of Care for Youth
Focus on Children and Youth
Sandy Hook Elementary
How to Help Children Cope With Frightening News
This past month we were all shocked and horrified to learn of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The community was shaken to its core but seems to have responded in a most remarkable fashion during this very trying period.
The shooting tragedy, however, affected many more individuals than the immediate Newtown community. It made numerous children in communities all across the country afraid, and led parents to question the safety of their children in their neighborhood schools.
We struggle to comprehend such violence towards innocent children and their teachers but do realize similar contemptible acts by mankind will occur in our communities in the future.
Given this reality, childmind.org offered some advice for caregivers of children on how to help children cope when such traumatic events occur. These offerings and others are listed below:
- To be therapeutic you must stay calm. Parents or other caregivers must not transfer their own anxieties or fears to the children in their care.
- Create an environment that affords them an opportunity to voice their fears and respond to their questions honestly and patiently. One does not have to “push” them to talk as this may be counterproductive but they must appreciate that you are comfortable discussing their fears.
- Be direct but also developmentally appropriate in your conversations. This interchange is best done in limited amounts over multiple conversations, not a single marathon sit-down. Expect a child to come back again and again with questions as they build a narrative about what happened; with your help it can be a healthy one, even if it is a very difficult subject.
Assist the child in developing a narrative where they are a problem-solver, not a victim. Adoption of a victim stance lends itself to Post Traumatic Stress conditions.
- It is critical to make kids feel safe with love and continued routines. There is perhaps nothing more damaging to a child’s development than a feeling that the world is on balance a negative place. Security gives children confidence at the same time that it lets them be kids while they need to be.
Although difficult, attempt to limit exposure from the surrounding environment. Turn the TV off as appropriate when young children are present. Excessive news reporting, especially detailing people in crisis can elevate anxieties even further.
- Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on kids and be alert to signs that they might not be recovering in a healthy way – changes in their patterns of sleep and eating, unusual irritability or trouble focusing, obsessive or pervasive worry that may take the form of pronounced separation anxiety.
At South Community we are attempting to transform mental health and physical health care for all of our patients but it really takes a community approach to make substantial and lasting change, especially with our most vulnerable child population. Research is confirming that the most important factors in creating resiliency in our children to allow them to recover from various traumas are the community interventions not individual interventions.
The challenge ahead of us is to foster this sense of community for all children by better collaboration and integration of all our community resources.
Adapted from “The Connecticut Tragedy: How to Help Children Cope With Frightening News” by Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, Child Mind Institute [firstname.lastname@example.org] – 12/14/2012
When children are experiencing difficulty it can affect their self-esteem, success in school, friendship and family life. Our goal is to assist the child while working together with the family, the family physician, educators, or other professionals to coordinate behavioral health care. We offer a wide range of programs that incorporate individual, group and family counseling for children and youth struggling with such issues as:
- School / education problems
- Trauma issues
- Low self-esteem
- Eating disorders
- Depression and anxiety
- Lack of motivation/underachievement/over-achievement
- Poor social skills
- Acting out behaviors
- Divorce and blended families issues
South Community will provide diagnostic assessment to determine the problem, develop a plan and implement solutions. Specialists in children’s problems are available to provide treatment in the most appropriate modality. We also offer assessment and medication services provided by a psychiatrist when needed.
Children with Severe Emotional Disturbances (SED)
South Community offers community support for SED children and youth. When a community psychiatric support specialist is assigned, the specialist will set up a service plan, introduce additional service providers, maintain frequent contact with the family, and monitor progress. This service is a key component to successful outcomes.
More specialized treatment for severely emotionally disturbed children include:
- Youth Empowerment Program (1/2 day)
- Partial hospitalization: a daily treatment program of individual, group and family therapy as well as educational tutoring (full day).
- Foster care in a 24 hour in-home environment with trained foster parents.