- Be prepared for children to ask the same questions more than once as they process their feelings.
- If a young child doesn’t ask about a tragic event, that typically means the event isn’t on the child’s mind, Frost-Pettengill said.
- Be patient if a child regresses in their behavior. For example, a child who typically sleeps through the night may want to sleep on the floor in a parent’s room, Frost-Pettengill said. Accommodate the behavior, but don’t indulge it for too long and try return to normal routines, she said.
- Young children may not grasp the concept of death or killing, Giambalvo said. “It’s important that parents use the words ‘dead’ and ‘died’ when talking with their kids. It can be confusing for kids if you don’t; they take things very concretely.”
- Don’t be alarmed if a child has an intense burst of feeling, then is ready to play five minutes later. “That’s completely normal,” Giambalvo said.
- Reach out to others. Organize a vigil or a moment of silence or participate in a recognition of the tragedy. Talk to other parents about your own feelings of shock, despair or grief, so you’re prepared to reassure your children when they need it, Frost-Pettengill said.
- Find out if your child’s school has a crisis plan and what steps it involves. Talk to your child about the plan and explain that their teachers know what to do to keep them safe, Giambalvo said.
Monday, December 17, 2012
As the school day neared its end Monday, Marci Parizo of Bangor wrestled with what to say to her young son about the shooting in Newtown, Conn., when he returned home.
Five-year-old Landen hadn’t been aware of Friday’s tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but Parizo wondered what he would pick up from others during class. When she’d pulled up to Fruit Street School to drop Landen off, a police cruiser was parked out front, a sight that both alarmed and reassured her, she said.
“I don’t know what I will say this afternoon, if anything at all,” she said. “I wish I was more prepared.”
Parizo, also mother to 3-year-old Sullivan, said she’d likely wait to see if Landen asked her questions about the shooting. She could reassure him that his teachers would keep him safe, reminding him of the emergency drills he’d practiced.
But what if her son asked the question on everyone’s minds about the terrible losses in Newtown: Why?
“That’s the tricky one,” she said. “We don’t know why, nobody knows why. You want to give them some type of answer better than that.”
Parents across the country are struggling to help their children understand the tragedy as they grapple with it themselves. How to explain enough, but not too much. How to experience the shock and sadness without instilling fear. How to reassure children that they’re safe when the parents’ own sense of security has been shaken.
“It’s always OK to say you don’t know,” said Susan Giambalvo, a clinical social worker and program director at the Center for Grieving Children in Portland. “Children may ask you a question that you can’t answer.”
Let children lead the way with their questions, she said. Use age-appropriate language, and don’t feel the need to go into every detail about Friday’s tragedy, she said.
“Be brief and be honest and if they want to know more, they will ask you more,” Giambalvo said.
Children may need reassurance that the adults around them will keep them safe, said Julie Frost-Pettengill, a Bangor grief therapist. Explain that bad things happen to good people, but emphasize the rarity of such events, she said.
“This is so enormous that if we’re not careful it could paralyze us,” she said. “The reality is it didn’t happen to us — it happened to us in the sense that we’re a collective family.”
Other tips for parents to help children cope with crisis, include:
Many parents may also wonder whether to shield their children from media reports of Friday’s shooting. While older children may benefit from watching one news account and then discussing it with their parents, younger children may wrongly interpret the constant coverage to mean that the shooting is still happening or occurring in their town, Frost-Pettengill said.
“Definitely turn the television off because the repeated exposure to the coverage, the stories, the photographs … It’s upsetting, and we can minimize that just by minimizing our exposure to it,” Giambalvo said.
If a child’s concerns or anxiety about the shooting appear intense, persist or worsen, or the child stops showing interest in once-favorite activities, professional support may be in order, Giambalvo said.
As a child grows, their response to a traumatic event can evolve, Frost-Pettengill said. Parents should be on the lookout for warning signs that a child is struggling to cope, even months later, she said.
It’s natural to feel shaken in the days and months following such a tragedy, Giambalvo said, but key to moving on with life will be reaching out to family, friends, and neighbors, she said.
“We need to rebuild our sense of safety and community,” Giambalvo said.
Posted by Myself at 10:17 PM
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Question: Do you have any suggestions on healthy foods to eat during the holiday season?
A: The holidays are in full swing and festive food is everywhere. Food is an essential part of any celebration, and the holidays bring with them a smorgasbord of options. While these foods are delicious to eat, some have the added bonus of containing cancer-preventing nutrients. We often think of holiday food as rich and fattening and perhaps not very good for us. But you can find ways to eat healthy by adding more “cancer-blocking” foods into festivities.
Many foods are sources of antioxidants, phytonutrients, omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and other nutrients known to help prevent cancer. Pumpkin can be a holiday staple for many families, and for some, it may be one of the tastiest ways to enhance the body’s own natural cancer fighting ability. Pumpkins are packed with nutrients called carotenoids, which have been linked to the prevention of colon, prostate, breast and lung cancer. Other examples are sweet potatoes, carrots, and butternut and acorn squash.
Apples are another food packed with cancer preventing properties, thanks to the nutrient quercitin which protects DNA in the body’s cells from damage that could lead to the development of cancer. To get the most protection against cancer from apples, eat them with the skin on and not combined with sugar and fats, like in a pie.
Snack on popcorn! Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain and that wild or brown rice are also whole grains? Use them for soups, stuffing or as a side dish.
A few suggestions:
Make a dip out of smoked salmon; serve shrimp along with raw vegetables; and don’t forget the cocktail sauce and salsa (tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, vitamin C and potassium); serve cranberry relish or sauce as a condiment or side dish; and use cranberry juice in the holiday party punch.
The overall key to finding cancer-fighting foods is to look for a rainbow of colors. Produce like pomegranates, tomatoes, eggplant, grapes, cherries, and turnips that have brighter and richer pigment, also have higher level of nutrients. Eating whole foods typically provides greater health benefits than taking a dietary supplement.
Also consider adding dried fruits and nuts to salads or making dips made from legumes, such as hummus or black bean dip, which are good sources of fiber and other phytonutrients. Make a snack mix out of dried cranberries, almonds and dark chocolate bits. All nuts are high in antioxidants, protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. When baking, use dark chocolate and walnuts. Dark chocolate, my favorite, has more antioxidants (known as flavonols or phenols) than milk chocolate. And don’t think you have to avoid sweets. Contrary to popular belief, sugar doesn’t feed cancer, but it can contribute to unwanted and unnecessary calories, so you may want to practice moderation. One of the easiest and most effective ways to promote good health and to help protect against cancer is with your diet. The American Cancer Society estimates that one third of all American cancer deaths may be diet-related.
I hope these suggestions got your imaginations running. Remember, Marian Cancer Care provides, at no charge, dietary counseling for cancer patients and services to our Central Coast community. For more information, please call 219-4673.
Posted by Myself at 3:06 AM