Lorraine Healy, LiCSW Clinical Social Worker and mother of triplets born 5/95 gives us tips on helping our family after a crisis.
As a mother of triplets, I have experienced the joys of parenting in multiple. Unfortunately, in times of crisis, the stress is also multiplied. Healthcare professionals unanimously identify how expecting to get better fuels getting better, and research consistently points to the human resiliency factor. “Crisis does not leave people the same – they change for better or for worse.”
As a trained crisis care provider, I have learned that people react to a crisis in very specific ways. As a mother of triplets, I realize that there are also best practice methods that we can use to approach a crisis with our own families.
When people experience trauma, normal reactions are to:
- Regress to a more basic primitive state.
- Try to make sense of the incident (if we understand it, we can prevent it).
- Try to understand “Why?” – if there is no answer, we will create one.
- Be reactive/lack objectivity.
- Isolate – lack of control leads people to pull away from others and children to act out.
As parents, it is our job to bring some sense of safety, stability and hope back to our family’s life after a crisis.
Our best response to these reactions is to:
- Take care of ourselves first. If we are afraid or frazzled, our children will be afraid. Ask for help if needed. Accept help. First and foremost, we must get support for ourselves so that we are available to do what we need to do for our family.
- Get back to as normal a schedule as possible, as soon as possible. Expect that our children may regress and act out; we may need to lower our normal expectations or bend the rules a bit.
- Share the facts about the crisis, as you know them, in an age appropriate manner. Acknowledge the impact the crisis has had on them, and the family.
- Help children to work out the “Why?” Children will often blame themselves for events that happen. Reassure them that it is not their fault, or anyone else’s fault, and that an event like this in unlikely to happen again, as a hurricane like this has not hit the Northeast coast in over 100 years.
- Help them to gain control by focusing on the safety plan in the future and the recovery. Be a part of the recovery process if possible. Research shows that people who are part of the recovery process, who help others even while accepting help themselves, deal with the trauma better than those who don’t. It could be as simple as a phone call to a friend in need. Encourage the kids to get involved as well, they often come up with very creative ways to help, thus, gaining some control over a very scary situation.
- Allow for feelings: sadness, loss, anger, confusion. This is a process and people will have varying emotions throughout. Losses will be realized over time. Share these feelings as a family and find special ways to acknowledge them together.
a) The danger arises when people get stuck in the negative emotions, which can lead to an overall sense of fear and hopelessness. Research shows that trauma effects increase the more children watch TV about the event. So limit media access to the crisis.
b) Balance sharing the facts, acknowledging the trauma and the feelings, with a more hopeful look toward the future.
c) Focus on the positive, find humor – go to a funny movie, play a game, find time to forget about the crisis and have some fun. The benefits of multiples are that they are built in friends and support. Encourage playtime, allow the older kids to spend time with their peers. Or better yet, let a supportive friend take the kids to the playground while you get some time for yourself.
7. Remember, This Too Shall Pass. I remember when my kids were born; I don’t think I slept through the night for 3 months. It wasn’t until someone reminded me that once they reached10 lbs, it would change and get better. The thought never occurred to me that this was going to be short lived and would not go on forever. What a relief! It’s often easier to make it through a crisis when we remind ourselves that things will eventually get better, this is time limited.
“When Tragedy Strikes: Crisis Management for Critical Incidents and PTSD” by Bob VandePol, Dr. George Everly and Patrick Clarke