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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : features October 04, 2015

7/7/2013 6:00:00 AM
Reassuring children after tragedy strikes
West Yavapai Guidance Clinic

Preparing this Counselor's Column was extremely difficult given the tragedy our Prescott community is experiencing. The loss of 19 heroic, local individuals is almost overwhelming. Selecting what to offer in terms of "words of wisdom" took on new meaning. There is not enough space here to offer extensive guidance on surviving a traumatic loss, or to address every emotional wound our community is experiencing now. Each of us is feeling the impact differently. Some are feeling the heartbreaking loss of a husband, friend or son. Others are mourning from a distance, feeling a poignant loss, even though they have never shaken the hand of a single Hotshot.

Regardless of our place in this tragedy, each of us may be called upon to talk with children about the memorials, the media trucks, the purple ribbons, and the sad people they observe around Prescott right now. Let's each be prepared to talk to our community's children and lead them through this tragedy in a way they can understand. The following is information on how to reassure children after a tragedy provided by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency):

• Personal contact is reassuring. Hug and touch your children.

• Calmly provide factual information about the recent disaster and current plans for ensuring their safety along with recovery plans.

• Encourage your children to talk about their feelings.

• Spend extra time with your children such as at bedtime.

• Re-establish your daily routine for work, school, play, meals, and rest.

• Involve your children by giving them specific chores to help them feel they are helping to restore family and community life.

• Praise and recognize responsible behavior.

• Understand that your children will have a range of reactions to disasters.

• Encourage your children to help update your family disaster plan.

If you have tried to create a reassuring environment by following the steps above, but your child continues to exhibit stress, if the reactions worsen over time, or if they cause interference with daily behavior at school, at home, or with other relationships, it may be appropriate to talk to a professional. You can get professional help from the child's primary care physician, a mental health provider specializing in children's needs, or a member of the clergy.

"Remember that you know your child best, so take all these suggestions with that in mind," said Kent Mattern, director of Child and Family Services for West Yavapai Guidance Clinic (WYGC). "There may be some of these reassurance tips that work better for your particular child, because each child is different."

WYGC provides services for those experiencing a mental health crisis. People in western Yavapai County may access these services by calling 445-5211, where someone will be available to take the call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or walk in to talk with someone in person Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at either 642 Dameron Drive/Hillside Center in Prescott, or 3345 N. Windsong Drive/Windsong Center in Prescott Valley. These crisis counseling services are available to anyone regardless of income or insurance status.

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