When a disaster or tragedy occurs, parents are often so focused on taking care of their families, that they do not take the time to take care of themselves — or deal with their own shock or response to the event.
Remember, that adults can be most helpful if they take care of themselves and get help for their own distress, since children may respond to adults’ feelings and reactions.
For the sake of yourself and your children, it’s important that you prioritize your own self-care and mental well-being. This will help you cope better in the immediate and long term and better support your children.
Try to remain calm yourself
During emergencies, children look to adults for guidance on how to act and respond. This is why one of the best ways to keep children calm during a crisis, is to keep calm yourself.
One way to do this is by focusing on your breath. Breathing exercises and techniques are a powerful way to calm your nervous system and reduce anxiety and stress.
‘Belly breathing’ or ‘diaphragmatic breathing’ is a simple breathing exercise that helps you draw oxygen deep into your lungs. Here’s an easy 3-step process you can teach your child to do:
Place your hand on your stomach.
Take 5 deep breaths – spend 5 seconds breathing in and 5 seconds breathing out, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Explain that when your child inhales, they are blowing up their tummy softly like a balloon, and when they exhale the air is going slowly out of the balloon again.
This will not only show your children that you are still in control, but it will also teach them how to handle stressful situations in a thoughtful way.