Numbness. Anger. Stomachaches. Tiredness. Sadness. Regression. Shock. Headaches.
When children are exposed to violence, it’s common for them to experience these and other physical and mental reactions, said Melissa Peace, manager of the Summit County Children Who Witness Violence Program.
The program has been providing crisis intervention services for the Copley Township community since a shooter went on a rampage on Sunday, killing seven people, including an 11-year-old boy and two 16-year-old girls from Copley High School.
Whether children actually witness a violent act or they’re touched by a tragedy such as the Copley shooting spree because it involves a friend, neighbor or someone in their community, the experience can be traumatic, Peace said.
The reaction “depends on the child’s age and the developmental level,” she said. “Not all kids are going to experience trauma the same way.
“… Be patient and talk about what’s going on and how they’re feeling.”
The Children Who Witness Violence Program is led by Akron Children’s Hospital and housed in the Battered Women’s Shelter. The program works with about 300 children per year who have been exposed to any type of violence.
Peace offered these tips to help children deal with a violent, tragic situation:
• Limit media coverage, which can increase anxiety in children, especially young children who can think the situation is repeatedly happening.
• Be understanding if behavioral changes occur.
• Provide an even more safe and secure environment than usual to ease anxiety.
• Help children identify their feelings and let them know those feelings are normal.
• Maintain routines.
• Let children talk about what’s on their mind and how they are feeling.
• Separate fact from fiction about the situation.
• Be honest with kids if you don’t know the answers to their questions.
• Help them hold onto their positive memories of the person they lost by making a memory box or writing a letter.
• Open the lines of communication with these questions: What worries you the most? What’s most upsetting to you right now? What can I do to help you feel better? Do you have any questions about what happened or what’s going to happen?
Services are provided for free through the Summit County Children Who Witness Violence Program.
For more information, visit http://www.akronchildrens.org/cwwv or call the program at the Battered Women’s Shelter at 330-374-0740.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or email@example.com.