This week has brought a number of events that turned our minds to how to support you when young children in your care are made anxious or sad by personal or media news.
We are all saddened by the terrible accident at Dreamworld. Nearly two million people visit Dreamworld every year, particularly families with children. Many young children are also aware of Dreamworld from advertising. Exposure to this news may raise anxious questions from children about safety on fun rides.
Also, recently, the media broke the terrible news of the death of a young child that coincided with – but may not be connected to – a gastroenteritis outbreak at their long day care service in Mosman.
Helping young children to understand traumatic events on their own terms, and to continue to feel safe and secure, is an important part of every educators’ role. There are many places to seek support for your part in infant and young child mental health.
Below is an extract from a Kidsmatter information sheet, written in the context of children who have been affected by some kind of trauma:
Talk to children about the traumatic event
Children do not benefit from ‘not thinking about it’ or ‘putting it out of their minds’. In the long run this can make children’s recovery more difficult.
Provide consistent and predictable routines
Children who have been traumatised can find changes in routines, transitions, surprises, unstructured social situations and new situations frightening. Maintaining children’s routines and their environment can help them feel safer and more secure so they recover from the effects of trauma.
Tuning in and being responsive to children
Children who have experienced traumatic events often need help to tune into the way they are feeling. When parents, carers and staff take the time to listen, talk and play, they may find children start to tell or show how they are feeling. Traumatised children find it difficult to understand what their experiences mean.
Managing your own reactions
Parents, carers and staff experience a range of feelings when they are caring for children who have been exposed to traumatic events and may feel overwhelmed by the child’s trauma and reactions. This can lead to a traumatic stress of their own. Finding ways for adults to reduce their stress helps them continue to be effective when offering support to children who have experienced traumatic event