MERIDIAN — "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." — 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NKJV)
Next week, our children will return to school with extra baggage. They return after enjoying a long holiday reprieve. They also return after watching the horror of Newtown, Conn. As they enter the schools, parents and educators will have a heightened awareness about safety.
It might be expected that the children will sense the new tension and have various expressions of stress and nerves. Separation anxiety, various aches and pains associated with tension, emotional outbursts, and unusual social disorder are but a few of the symptoms that might show our children have been affected by the news of recent weeks.
As Christian adults, we are to find our comfort and confidence in the presence of Jesus in our lives. Through the trials of life, mature Christians have learned to turn to the Lord for all understanding, peace, protection, and provision that we need. The fearful things of childhood have been overcome by time and experience. That comfort that we have gained through life must now be used to comfort our children who feel afraid or anxious.
A great resource to deal with children under stress from trauma is "Helping Children Rebound" by Jenna Bilmes and Cate Heroman. This 2005 publication may be obtained by going to www.TeachingStrategies.com.
In this material, the following guidelines are given to help children cope with traumatic events:
• Establish routines. Maintain regular routines as much as possible. Routines should be what our children normally have known. When possible, share with your children what they can anticipate. Make it as positive and exciting as possible.
• Listen, watch and respond. Respond to your children according to their needs. Some need activity. Others need quiet and physical presence. Communicate with your children and find out what they need. Share with them that our feelings are normal. Try to find out why, as well as what, they are feeling. Answer their questions as best as you can. Be positive about your support and presence for them.
• Understand challenging behavior. Trauma can cause temporary changes in behavior. Social skills, personal confidence, eating habits, sleeping habits, attention spans, etc. may be temporarily affected by what they have seen and heard. Be patient and calm. Be calm and supportive. Help your children avoid any conversations or situations that might further frighten them. Make life safe and supportive.
• Enjoy being together. Be present for your children. Assure them that you will not leave them. Find something fun to do together. Help your children think about something good, positive and encouraging. Laugh together. Make life a positive, safe experience. Talk about good things. Show you are okay. Let them see your celebration of life and they will soon mirror what they have seen in you.
Your children’s fears can be overcome if you take each moment to teach what you have learned in life. When I began school, bus number 44 came to pick me up. I was very upset because I was not sure that the bus driver knew where my mama lived. After a few weeks, I overcame my fear of leaving my mom. Today, I ride buses without anxiety.
Life will always have its threatening moments. We who have walked the way before must encourage those who come after us!
Dr. John A. Temple is pastor of Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church, located at 4032 Poplar Springs Drive in Meridian. Visit the church website online at www. psdbc.org.