Emotional Safety for Children: Viewing images of trauma

Heartrending images of Japanese babies being tested for radiation exposure have been on the news channels. Homes washed away, lives disrupted, and unknown dangers of radiation loom.

Adults will often rationalize that this won’t happen to them, or they seek further information about their own safety. People also find support from friends, co-workers, family. Others find it empowering to contribute their time or money to relief efforts.

How do our children cope with these images and information? In general, children have fewer ways to cope with coverage of disasters. When bad news is widely seen on TV, magazines and newspapers, children respond to it in varied ways. Much depends on the age of the child and their ability to process information. Images of mass trauma can be deeply unsettling and anxiety provoking for children.

Some things that parents can do to help include getting them to express their fears and concerns openly. This might include a discussion of the events, doing an art project together, or reading about a country.

Also important is a clear discussion of their safety. Parents can take the time to explain relief efforts that are taking place. Families might consider taking actions to help with those rehabilitation and relief efforts though volunteer work or contributions. Such actions give us a way to combat the helplessness we feel when watching disasters unfold. According to Dr. Judith-Myers-Walls, parents can also help by choosing media that report in responsible ways.

Please see her write-up for more.

Finally, we know that many families in Chicago have coped with missing relatives, loss, and anxiety following the earthquake and its aftermath in Japan. Please see this link for FREE support groups for people.

If you want to contribute to the Red Cross disaster relief efforts please go to the Red Cross web site or text “Red Cross” to 90999. If you text in, $10 will be automatically charged to your phone bill as a donation.