• September 16, 2019

CENTERS' PIECE: Help children cope with mass shooting - Odessa American: Centers’ Piece

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CENTERS' PIECE: Help children cope with mass shooting

Center offering free counseling in wake of tragedy

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Posted: Monday, September 9, 2019 1:00 am

The events that happened in our own backyard on August 31, 2019 devastated the entire communities of Midland/Odessa. Kristi Edwards (Centers CE), said, “Our hearts are broken, but we are a community of strength and resilience.” It was a senseless act that we may never know the underlying causes of it. There is not a logical explanation of the shootings that occurred and we are still trying to find some sort of meaning for our mixed emotions. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those effected by this tragedy.

Several people have asked me various questions concerning this senseless act. I am sure that most parents have also been asked about what happened here. Mass shootings or other terrorist acts can leave children feeling frightened, confused and insecure. Whether a child has personally experienced a trauma, has seen the event on TV or heard it discussed by adults, it is important for adults to be informed and ready to help.

The long-term social and psychological effects of such an act could be worse than the immediate effects. The primary purpose of these horrible attacks is to wreck destruction via psychological means by inducing fear, confusion, and uncertainty in everyday life. If a reaction persists longer than 6 to 8 weeks and continues to cause distress, it may be a sign of a more serious problem and a mental health professional should be contacted.

Children respond to trauma in many different ways. Some may have reactions very soon after an event; others may seem to be doing fine for weeks or months and then show worrisome behavior. Knowing the various reactions of children and their developmental levels can help you respond appropriately.

TODDLERS: Regression in developmental milestones (potty training, speech, walking)

SCHOOL AGE: Defiance, Argumentative, Inattentive, Sadness, Increased Dependence

ADOLESCENCE: Drug/Alcohol use, Problems in conduct, Decline in school performance, Feelings of inadequacy, Increased independence

Reassurance is the key to helping young children through a traumatic time. Try to maintain a normal household and/or classroom routine. Reassure children that they are safe and that they are loved. Answer questions honestly, but do not dwell on frightening details or allow the subject to dominate conversations indefinitely. Children under the age of 6 years old should not be exposed to the TV coverage of trauma or possible threats and viewing time for older children should be limited.

In order to help the children cope, allow them to express their feelings. This can be done through talking to parents, family members, teachers, and/or counselors. Children can also express their feelings in artistic ways such as drawing, painting, coloring, or music. Be sure to praise and recognize responsible behavior and reassure children that their feelings are normal in response to an abnormal situation.

It is natural to feel scared about violence, especially here in our own community. However, focusing on events you cannot control will only make you feel worse. Adults need to review the things they can change and make plans for reinforcing them. It is also important to have your own support network to help you get through uncertain times.

Centers for Children and Families can be of help. Centers is offering free counseling services to any victims of Aug 31 tragedy Victims, families of victims, first responders, medical staff and students. We are here to help. Call the office in Odessa (580-7006) or in Midland (570-4060) to make an appointment.

Odessa, TX

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