By Sherry Russell GMS
Helping your children deal with the Columbia tragedy
Children are sponges absorbing information even when it seems like they aren't paying any attention. Children see and hear the television. They see and hear our sadness. They are bewildered by the tragic events and many times aren't offered any answers or acknowledgment for their fears. Weather children are old enough or not to understand what has happened they will still feel and react to your swirling emotions.
Young children (pre-school) may ask questions about what happened and why. They may ask about the astronauts and their families. They may ask what is going to happen now. The best thing we can do is answer their questions in the best possible way with only the amount of detail to satisfy their question. Children's perceptions are determined in the five basic senses. They see things concrete, short range and based on what is felt in that moment. Children have a tendency to think if someone died in the air then they too will die if they ever go up in the air. They may ask the same question over and over again. They are searching for answers to why they feel insecure or disordered. Patience and giving only details needed is the key.
If the children are school age, find out what they knew about the Columbia and the astronauts. We should discuss with them how they feel. Honor their feelings and explain ours.
The following are common expressions of Children's grief: Shock : the thought of the death is too overwhelming. Physical Symptoms: children may have tummy aches, trouble sleeping, headaches. Anger: children are concerned about their own needs and may become angry because this was a scary disruption to their life. Sadness: children may become quiet and moody. Anxiety: children want to understand and help those they love when they see them sad. Regression: children may revert back to some previous behavior.
The following are more tips for helping children:
Maintain usual routines. Encourage them to ask questions. Encourage them to let their feelings show. Let your feelings show and discuss your range of emotions with them. Remember that anxiety is contagious so make sure they know they are secure. Encourage them to tell you what they hear at school or from friends about the tragedy. Wrap you child in the comfort of your arms and show them with love.
Children grieve as fiercely, as strongly, and as long as adults do. Children are also very good at hiding their grief. Many parents think their children are doing fine because they are playing and laughing. That is not necessarily correct since children grieve at irregular intervals. Keep you eyes open for the moment of sadness.
This tragedy is a frightening confusion in their lives. In a few moments on February 1, 2003, life changed with the image of the Columbia plunging from the sky forever branded on their brains and hearts along with ours. We, as adults, are a safety net for our children. We are in a position to open the doors of communication and understanding for their grief.