It’s all over Facebook, Twitter, and daily news shows on television and radio, violent acts against the people who protect us and the people being protected. Regardless of the side you come down on, and it seems like everyone is taking sides; the bottom line is that children, very young children, are paying the steepest price. Parents, siblings, and other adult caregivers are being lost to violence at times when the imprint of that loss will be felt forever.
Infants, toddlers and preschoolers are focused on the immediate needs in their lives—as they should be. Developmentally, they are in constant need for reassurance from a caring adult so they can develop trust in their environment and the people in it. When the primary person is taken away from them, children retain physical memories of the loss contributing to life-long feelings of fear and anxiety.
As the adults and caregivers left to pick up the pieces following a tragic loss in a child’s life, there are ways we can help. In the short term we can reestablish safety and security. What may seem like common sense or “easy” ways to provide assurance to children immediately following a traumatic event: extra hugs, holding little hands and helping children to get enough sleep; sticking to or re-establishing routines also reassures children that life has returned to some kind of order. Young children may also benefit, as would adults, from rituals such as prayers, a regular “memory time” or other special ceremony to re-establish the feeling of security.
There are many resources available that offer advice on how to help young children cope with and recover from traumatic events, such as s the loss of a loved one. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offers a list with links to guides and videos appropriate for many age groups. Head Start also offers a Guide for Parents and Teachers to support children after a tragic event.
As we continue to find our way, as a community and country, through these difficult and emotional times; we hope that you will join us in making sure these most vulnerable children have the support they deserve throughout their young lives.