Why You and Your Anxious Child Need Routine ASAP after a Tragedy

When tragedy hits, the world seems to stop. But keeping it stopped and ignoring your regular routine can be one of the worst things to do when trying to work through a traumatic event, especially for children who already suffer from anxiety issues.

“It is essential that children fall back into ordinary routines after hearing disturbing and frightening news,” according to ChildMind.org. “Children find comfort in the familiar, and going back to school and any after-school activities helps build healthy, resilient children.”

Adds child and family counselor Kathy Eugster:

“Routines reduce anxiety and regular daily patterns emphasize predictability. A regular routine will give a sense of control to both parent and child. Anxious children do not cope well with a disorganized, spontaneous family life style.”

Nor do anxious children cope well with disruption to the schedule they have come to rely upon for a sense of safety and security, especially if that disruption comes from a traumatic event. In the case of the Connecticut elementary school shooting, part of the routine is sending your child back to the very place where tragedy struck.

It’s important not to ignore the additional anxiety your kid may feel going into a place where the horrific event occurred, ChildMind.org says. It’s equally important to offer extra reassurance and to emphasize safety measures your own child school has in place to help prevent a similar tragedy.

Achieve the latter by reviewing the safety measures your child’s school has in place, with drills and policies that help keep everyone secure. “Remind your child that her school is a very safe place, filled with teachers and other adults who love children and have dedicated their lives to helping them,” ChildMind.org adds.

Extra reassurance may mean preparing to slow down your usually hectic morning flurry to address concerns and offer a hug or other physical comfort and affection. “Don’t be surprised if your child is unusually clingy or needy this week,” says ChildMind.org. Comfort him or her accordingly.

Activities to Add to Your Routine

Even if your schedule is jam-packed, a post-tragedy routine can benefit from adding a few specific activities pointed out by family therapist Susan Stiffelman. You may find these activities so helpful you may want to keep them as part of your daily routine long after tragedy has passed. You can do this by eliminating less important stuff on your agenda. Suggestions include:

  • Scheduled worry time. Set aside a specific amount of time each day when you can ruminate over all your worries. That way they are less inclined to invade the rest of your day.
  • Meditation. A powerful ritual, meditation can soothe the body, mind and soul at any time of the day. It can be especially helpful as part of a morning ritual for establishing the vibe of the day.
  • Adequate play. Now may be a great time to insert more fun, quality time with your kids. Not only will this help you all relax, but it serves to remind you what really matters: the love and moments you share.