Help­ing kids cope with crime


As adults we know life can be un­pre­dictable and when the un­fore­seen hap­pens we call on our life ex­pe­ri­ence and sup­port net­works to find a way through our trauma.

It’s also our job to pro­vide the sup­port, and share our wis­dom and ex­pe­ri­ence with the chil­dren in our care when dif­fi­cult things hap­pen.

This week our street has been filled with po­lice cars, of­fi­cers and foren­sic teams as a few houses away from ours has be­come a crime scene.This cer­tainly falls into the un­fore­seen cat­e­gory of life events!

The chil­dren are un­der­stand­ably con­cerned and con­fused. They’re also in­trigued and a lit­tle bit ex­cited.

When a crime hap­pens in your neigh­bour­hood there are go­ing to be ques­tions and wor­ries from chil­dren. Some chil­dren are open about their con­cerns, their dis­tress is clear and par­ents can be avail­able with hugs, chats and lin­ger­ing bed­times. Other chil­dren aren’t so ob­vi­ous in their need for ex­tra sup­port.

They may be con­fronta­tional to­wards you or sib­lings, show a re­luc­tance to go to bed, leave the house or be apart from you, and refuse to fol­low re­quests that would nor­mally not be an is­sue.

You may no­tice a drop or rise in en­ergy or noise lev­els and an in­abil­ity to con­cen­trate.

Par­ents are ex­perts on their own chil­dren and will usu­ally know what works well to calm them, but here are some tips from fam­ily ther­a­pist and reg­is­tered psy­chol­o­gist Julie BurgessMan­ning to help in un­usual cir­cum­stances:

1 Re­tain rou­tines; get up at the same time, go to bed at the same time, keep meal­times, school rou­tines, af­ter school ac­tiv­i­ties the same.

2 Turn me­dia off, rep­e­ti­tion of dis­as­ter scenes adds to anx­i­ety.

3 Pro­vide a calm and lov­ing re­sponse; keep your adult wor­ries away from chil­dren. If you are par­tic­u­larly up­set get sup­port from other adults you trust.

4 Keep nor­mal dis­ci­plinary bound­aries. If kids are break­ing th­ese, it is im­por­tant that they know their par­ents are still in charge – the world is un­pre­dictable enough with­out th­ese chang­ing.

5 Give re­as­sur­ance but don’t overdo it. Too much re­as­sur­ance means there is some­thing to be wor­ried about!

6 Cre­at­ing sto­ries about what hap­pened can be use­ful for younger chil­dren.

7 Let them talk about it, but don’t let it take over, use dis­trac­tion and play to get their minds off it.

8 Do the things that you and your chil­dren en­joy – dis­trac­tion is a won­der­ful thing!

❚ Sarina Dick­son is co-au­thor of the Worry Bug re­sources for chil­dren, schools and fam­i­lies. Write your own reader re­port on stuff­na­ HAVE YOUR SAY

Let us know what is hap­pen­ing in your street or com­mu­nity. Email jenny.ling@fair­fax­me­

Chil­dren can be con­cerned and con­fused when crime hap­pens in their area.

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