I am writing in response to the murder of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in front of their four children, the two men who were murdered and the wife of one of the men who is in serious condition and their two-year-old baby who was lightly wounded.
We are still at war.
As a clinician who has worked with trauma for 30 years, I am concerned for the children knowing what their losses and the impact of their trauma will have on their growth and development.
Because these tragedies have involved children, they can directly influence your children. Your children may identify with the event and fear that it may happen to them. In June 22, 2014, I wrote, Your kid knows about the kidnappings. Please allow me to share again some important tips to support you as you support your children. Here is an excerpt of that post:
How do we take care of the children?
How do we protect them from the impact these events can have on them?
The very first thing is to be there for the child; understand what is happening to the child by observing and listening.
Here are 10 ways you can help your children say what’s on their mind:
- Engage the child in imaginative play with toys and figures, storytelling or drawing.
- Don’t lead the child. Follow the child’s directions.
- If you are playing with the child, ask the child what you are supposed to be saying or doing.
- If the child is telling a story, ask open ended questions to guide the child along.
- If the child is drawing, observe quietly, listening to what the child is saying while drawing.
- Don’t react to the child or interpret what the child is doing or saying through the eyes of an adult.
- Reassure the child and suggest to the child something that the two of you (or more) can do together for fun.
- Make sure the child’s routine continues
- Let the child know what to expect during the course of the day
- Answer the child’s questions with minimum information necessary or say, “I don’t know, maybe we could find out together.”
You know your children best and have a sense when something isn’t quite right. It is important then to always be there for them in a supportive and reassuring way. It is also important to remember that you are always there as the child’s parent, caregiver or teacher. You shouldn’t become the child’s therapist. If your child is experiencing or communicating something you feel is beyond your capabilities, it is in your child’s best interest to seek professional help.
The earth has tilted. We are witnesses to horrors that are taking place in our country and in our world. Experiencing trauma, like all other health and mental health issues, are being seen today on a spectrum:
- There are those who are survivors of trauma (violence and natural disasters) and are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
- those who witness trauma, those who work directly with trauma survivors and suffer from Secondary Trauma or Compassion Fatigue,
- those who work in the health, mental health and rescue services who may have unintentionally caused harm or death to individuals or could not prevent the outcome of harm or death of that individual, Second Victims,
- those who have lost a loved one to suicide, Suicide Survivors,
- and sadly more.
Studies are showing the epigenetic influences on our DNA and how the effects of trauma are being passed on from generation to generation.
The core of it all is the message that trauma occurs as a result of a situation or event taking place without our control. Viktor Frankl reminds us that in spite of the situation or event happening without our control, we are still in control of how we respond to that situation or event.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Regardless of who we are in relation to traumatic events; victim, observer, rescuer, family member, friend, or member of the same community, our goals are similar; survive, grieve, make sense of a senseless situation, find meaning and persevere.