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Reassuring Children in the Aftermath of Traumatic Events

PHOTO:   CREDIT: Leonid Mamchenkov
PHOTO: CREDIT: Leonid Mamchenkov
April 22, 2013

NASHUA, N.H. - In the wake of another deadly day in America, parents are being reminded how such events can emotionally traumatize young children. Psychologist Korenna Barto said the images and stories splashed everywhere can have a negative affect on a child's well-being, and that is why parents need to provide a safe haven and a secure base.

"A safe haven really just means that you have a person or persons that you know you can always turn to who make you feel safe and valued," she explained, "and help provide an emotional and psychological compass or barometer."

Having a safe haven and secure base is especially important for children through age five, Barto said, adding that the key is consistency.

"When children don't get that consistency, they don't feel that their parents - who are there every day, they wake up to, they go to bed to - give them as secure a base, as secure a feeling, as someone who is consistently available," she said.

One way to provide the consistency, she added, is with regular scheduling of everything from bedtime to family events - and that can be as easy as eating dinner together.

"Special moments, when you can just tune out everything else for just 10 minutes and focus purely on one child at a time, do wonders for feeding that secure base," she said. "Family dinners are a great example of that."

A variety of resources on talking to children about tragedy can be found online at www.attachmentparenting.org.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NH