Supporting our Children and Teens through Vicarious Trauma
In the times that we live in with Social Media and the Internet providing what feels like immediate access to our favorite stars/sports players, our children feel more “connected” to them than ever. This may have been evident for many who felt the loss of famed Basketball Player, Kobe Bryant. Grief was felt around the globe for his sudden loss of life in such a tragic way. Internet, TV, and Social Media platforms give fans the opportunity to live alongside their Idols as well as find out quickly when tragedy happens. This type of sudden tragedy creates an effect often referred to as Vicarious Trauma.
Vicarious trauma is described as traumatization experienced by secondhand exposure to an event. For example, learning of the tragic loss of a child/teen’s idol, whether it be musician, athlete, actor, or member of their community through a media platform or otherwise is an example of this type of trauma. This exposure can produce a range of emotions including grief, fear, and discomfort. A range of stress symptoms may also be noticed including numbing, re-experiencing finding out about the loss, heightened anxiety, increased tearfulness, troubles with focus and attention, etc. With our children often finding out about events before we do, how can we support them in working through some of these hard feelings?
Supporting our Children and Teens through these Hard Emotions
Often a caregiver’s response to grief or discomfort in their child is to want to “fix”. This is natural and has its place but listed below are some tips on being with your child in the hard times and empowering self-awareness and healing rather than “fixing”.
- Often with hard emotions of this nature just simply listening is often sufficient and what is needed in the moment. This type of active listening can be healing in itself as children process through these hard emotions.
- Encourage your child to talk about their feelings. Do not be afraid to have these hard conversations. Ignoring and avoiding bringing up the grief does not produce healing.
- Approach with curiosity. Seek to understand how they have been impacted.
- Do not be afraid to share with them how you have been impacted as well as healthy ways you are coping (exercise, journaling, art, etc.)
- Validate your child/teen’s feelings. “I understand this is really hard for you and how much you looked up to them.”
Lastly, if stress symptoms start to feel overwhelming or as though they are impacting daily life it is important to seek out professional Mental Health support. At Georgia HOPE we specialize in providing Mental Health Services such as Individual and Family counseling as well as Community Support Services among other things! Please do not hesitate to reach out and let us know how we can help you and your child. HOPE is here!
Written by Jennifer Cooper MS, LPC, RPT, NCC
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