The following are excerpts from Parent Guidelines for Crisis Response. Reprinted from A Practical Guide for Crisis Response in Our Schools, © 2003 by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress – Reproduced with Permission.
As parents you are probably the most influential factor in the recovery of your child from the emotional consequences of a crisis. Since you are the most emotionally involved with your child, your support, encouragement and reassurance is of utmost importance in your child’s recovery. While you may be frequently frustrated that you can’t do more to alleviate your child’s suffering, you need to realize that your efforts can not be replaced by anyone else.
As a parent of a child exposed to a crisis, you face several challenges in your effort to help your him/her. First, you may experience guilt because you were unable to protect your child from the wrath of the crisis. Even though this guilt may have no foundation in reality, it is real to you, and needs to be kept under control so that it doesn’t disable you from focusing on your child’s needs. Second, you need to keep yourself under control in a situation that may have been very emotional and traumatizing to you. This is especially true if you were also exposed to the crisis situation. You need to realize that you can suffer secondary traumatization due to your child’s exposure to a crisis. As discussed above, you need to attend to your own emotional responses and seek intervention. While you need to be fully involved in your child’s recovery, time for yourself will do more to help your child. Following are interventions that you can provide to address the reactions of your child to a crisis situation.
The manner in which people react to crisis situations is dependent on a number of variables including personal history, personality variables, severity and proximity of the event, level of social support and the type and quality of intervention. While no two people respond to situations, in exactly the same manner, the following are often seen as immediate reactions to a significant crisis:
It is important to note that most children will recover from the effects of a crisis with adequate support from family, friends and school personnel. Their response to a crisis can be viewed as “a normal response to an abnormal situation.” While the emotional effects of the crisis can be significant and can potentially influence functioning for weeks to months, most children will evidence a full recovery.
Following are descriptions of responses likely to observed in children:
As in the case of children, the answer to this question is dependent on a number of variables including personal history, personality variables, severity and proximity of the event, level of social support and type and quality of intervention. The fact that some of the possible immediate adult reactions to a crisis are confusion, disorganization and difficulty in decision making, underscores the need for a preplanned, practiced and organized response plan. Longer term reactions that are experienced by adults are:
Since you are likely to be affected by the crisis situation, either directly through exposure to the crisis or indirectly through your child’s exposure, it is imperative that you receive the appropriate support and intervention. Without such intervention, you will be limited in your ability to meet the needs of your child. It is important that you have a forum to discuss your own feelings and reactions to the crisis and receive support. You should look to family members, other parents in the district, friends, and/or school support personnel (e.g., psychologist, social worker, guidance counselor) to share your feelings. It is likely that the school will have a meeting for parents to discuss the crisis, and offer them support and education. You are encouraged to attend. As with your child, you will most likely not experience long-term effects because of the crisis. However, if the symptoms outlined above persist and continue to interfere with your ability to function, professional consultation may be beneficial.
With support and reassurance from you and other in your family, intervention from school personnel, and the passage of time, your child should be able to recover from the effects of a crisis and return to pre-crisis functioning. He/she should be able to meet the demands of his/her environment, most particularly his/her home and school environments. However, there is a chance that your child, due to the nature of the crisis itself and due to his/her psychological makeup, history and ability to respond to support, will continue to experience difficulties which interfere with his/her functioning. If the symptoms outlined above persist, your child is probably in need of further, and probably more individualized, intervention. The following are guidelines for determining if your child requires additional intervention from professionals trained in addressing traumatic stress:
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