The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Grief specialist offers tips to help children reacting to school shooting

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  • Marsha Johnson a grief recovery specialist, author and speaker said the Friday’s Connecticut school shooting may effect children all over the country, even if they appear unaware or unconcerned about the tragedy. Johnson said often children process heir fears and grief in silence.
    “Children become easily distracted and have difficulty following through on the simplest of tasks when they are grieving or upset. They usually grieve in short spurts and grieve when parents or other adults are not around. Their initial grief can be very strong and the child might cry loudly or become hysterical,” Johnson said in a press release. “As adults, it is important how we teach our children to process their fears and grief as they are learning lifelong coping skills. When children learn to effectively work through particular fears and losses, they gain self confidence as they realize they can cope with life’s challenges.”
    Below is a list of emotional and physical symptoms children might experience during a time of tragedy and grief. In addition, some suggestions as to what adults can do to assist children through difficult times.
    Physical Signs of Grief
    Depending on the age physical symptoms can include:
    Thumb sucking
    Sleeping problems
    Stomach aches
    Eating disorders
    Identity confusion
    Little or no motivation
    Emotional Signs of Grief
    Page 2 of 3 -
    Withdrawal from family and friends
    Denial of loss
    No display of emotions over the loss
    Conflicting feelings about hanging on and letting go
    Avoids talking about the loss
    Experience a wide range of emotions including sadness, anger, guilt and shame
    May regress to an earlier stage of development
    Aggressive behavior
    What Adults Can Do
    Ask questions
    Provide guidance and reassurance
    Answer children’s questions honestly and simply
    Address children’s fears
    Listen to them when they are ready to talk
    Give lots of hugs
    Take time to hold them
    Encourage additional sleep
    Maintain normal routines as much as possible
    Give children permission to cry and grieve
    Consult outside sources for help if you believe a grieving child is not doing well
    Consider using the terms died or dead - children can become easily confused by other terms such as “passed away” or “fell asleep”
    Page 3 of 3 - Encourage children that the wide range of emotions they feel are normal
    “If a child is acting out from fear or grief, rather than isolate them to their bedrooms consider alternative means. Bedrooms are for sleeping, not for punishing. Encourage children to express their feelings by allowing them to cry and tell you how they feel. However, they must understand that they cannot hurt others or break things in their anger. If a child is doing something unacceptable, remember to tell the child that he is good but that his behavior is not allowed,” Johnson said.
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