Herald Journal Columns
May 30, 2005, Herald Journal

Help children create a safety net

By JENNI SEBORA

As I discussed in last week’s article, the news can be full of stories about unexpected or negative things like tornadoes, disease threats, kidnappings, and war.

And the frightening thing, especially to children, is that it may seem like these things are happening all around us, in places where children feel secure, and that they are happening all of the time.

Seeing these things on TV can cause children, and all of us, to feel uncertain, scared, and worried. The website www.bam.gov/survival has some tips for understanding the news and what we see and hear.

• Remember that the news doesn’t talk about everyday activities. The news usually talks about things that are out of the ordinary.

Sometimes, it seems like the news only reports bad things, such as a plane crash. An event such as this may get a lot of attention, so much that it seems planes crash all the time. In reality, thousands of planes take off and land safely each day – the news just doesn’t talk about it.

• Sometimes, we see and hear stories over and over again about tragic events. We may hear or watch a particular story on the news when we get home, and then again in the evening, and then before we go to bed.

This doesn’t mean that these events are happening over and over again. The news is just talking about it and repeating information about the event.

• Bad things in the news can alert us to what is going on around us. While this may scare us, we have to remember it doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to happen to us.

• Stories can help raise awareness of issues, our surroundings, and things that we can do to protect ourselves and our children.

• Disasters or tragic events can bring out the best in people, people helping other people in times of need and tragedy. We may see people in the communities volunteering to bring food and clothing to help others who may have been affected by an event. This may remind us that we can get involved too!

It is normal to be concerned about what we hear in the news. It is important, though, to know that while things may seem uncertain for a while, our lives usually will return to normal fairly soon.

The website also offers some tips to help us and our children get on with our daily living, even during stressful times.

• Help others. Sometimes, when we and our children our concerned about what’s going on around us, it is helpful to lend a helping hand to others and give others support.

Organizing and holding food drives and fundraisers, and donating clothes and supplies for organizations that help people who are affected by war or natural disasters are great ways to channel stress positively. And it’s great to get our children involved in these activities.

• Write feelings down. Having children draw pictures or write their feelings down in a journal, diary, or even just on a piece of paper, is a great way to get things out. Encourage children to write down or draw how they feel.

• Stick to a normal routine. There is comfort in the little things that we do every day, and children expect and count on those routine activities, so the website says to keep on doing them! Getting lots of sleep, eating well, and being physically active are important for our children, and adults as well, in dealing with stress.

• Take a break from the TV news – watch a funny movie together, play some games, go outside and play, or read a funny book or magazine together.

Too much information about bad news and events can get everyone down, so change your pace and do some lighthearted, fun activities. These fun activities can help us all feel rejuvenated, and help to redirect our thoughts for awhile.

• Encourage children to talk to you, as parents, and other family members and friends (depending on the children’s ages). Spend time with your children.

If children find themselves feeling worried, scared, or unsafe, and they don’t understand what’s going on around them, encourage them to talk with you, their teachers, or a school counselor. When children talk about their feelings, they can know that they are not alone.

Spending extra time with your children during stressful times may help them feel more safe and secure.

• Sometimes, things happen that we can’t anticipate. Make a plan.

There are some situations, like weather-related events (tornadoes, fires) that are easier to deal with if we’ve made a plan and are prepared, Being prepared in case of such emergencies can really help everyone feel less stressed and in more control of the event.

Activity ideas

• Make a mosaic stepping stone

Help your child cut around a one-gallon plastic milk or water container about two inches from the bottom. Discard the top of the container (recycle). The bottom will be your stepping stone.

Have your child draw a design on the outside of the plastic stone using permanent markers. Add “grout” lines in a random pattern.

Paint the inside of the stone with acrylic paint and let the paint dry.

Allow your child to take the stepping stone outdoors to bury in the garden so that just the top is visible.

This craft idea is from Highlights For Children, July, 2002

• You could also help your child make a personalized handprint or footprint stepping stone with some cement mixture and a bucket.

Help your child make the cement mixture and have it in a bucket for the round mold shape (about two to three inches thick).Have your child make handprints or footprints. Allow to dry according to the directions on the cement package.

When dry, remove the round stepping stone from the bucket and have your child paint it or personalize it with his/her name, date, and any other decorations. This would also be a great Father’s Day gift for father, grandpa, or other important male figure in the child’s life.

This idea is from Lester Prairie residents Troy and Lisa Feltmann, who have their children’s handprint stepping stones placed in their front yard to see every time you walk in and out of their house. What a great idea!

• Make a bookmark

As May is “Read to Me Month,” here’s another great craft activity to encourage reading, and children could make this as a gift for their fathers or another important male figure in their lives for Father’s Day.

Children will need a picture of themselves, or maybe a picture of them with their dad; crayons or markers, construction paper, and contact paper.

Cut the picture out and glue onto a strip of paper (bookmark size). Let each child design their own bookmark. Cover with clear Contact paper and you have a wonderful gift! He or she could even give the bookmark with a book to their father.

Eat a banana

Eat a banana, the official food of the Grump Out. Bananas contain potassium, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain, and regulates the body’s water balance.

The website, www.smilemania.com noted that when we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises. According to the website, bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin – known to make you relax, improve your mood, and generally make you feel happier. It’s a great food for children and adults to eat for breakfast.

Create some humor time

Create some humor time with your children. Place a cartoon or a joke in their lunch box or backpack and sign your name. Children will think you are silly, but love to know that their parents can have fun and act silly too, and that’s important!

So start your and your children’s day with a banana, share some jokes, and enjoy the day!