Families Together in Tough Times

Silhouette of Person Sitting Beside Body of Water


Tragedy keeps striking again and again and we need to pull together for ourselves today and the future for our children. The events in Las Vegas following repeated hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions may shake us deeply, but we must not let them shatter us.

The first step is self care for the adults in the family. Before you talk to your children, find a way to calm yourself, at least a little bit. Connect with your resources, inner strength and spirituality as well as outer connections. You might pause just to visualize a calm safe place until your body begins to self-regulate. Take some deep breaths. Get out in nature, or at least look out the window or at some nature pictures. Take a walk. Say a short prayer. Sometimes the short version of the Serenity Prayer can be helpful: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Sometimes all you can manage is a simple: “Help!”

When your head is clearer, be sure you have accurate basic information and weed out the graphic or fake news.  Keep the TV viewing to a minimum, ideally recording what you will watch so you can control what you present, especially  for any children under 12. Then go ahead and initiate a conversation with your children.  Better to be the one to bring it up than to wait for other less caring sources to prevail. Your children, if they are 4 or older, may have already heard something and not know what to say or do with the confusing feelings. Keep it short, simple and straightforward. Ask if they have questions. Just answer the question asked.

You may share your feelings if you can do so without drama that will alarm them. Encourage your children to express their feelings in words if they can, but action and art may be easier. They can scribble, squash play-doh, beat a pillow, scream or cuddle in a soft blanket depending on what they need. If they are able to talk, don’t interrupt or disagree. Repeat back, reflecting or paraphrasing what you think you heard them say. Hold them or let them go as they need, not by your need. They may just want to be quiet and rock with you.  Ask what helps them calm down; don’t assume that what helps you will be the same for them. Expect a range of emotions to change over the days but keep an eye out for lasting changes in sleeping, toileting, eating or acting out patterns. Keep your schedule as normal as possible, but also plan to pause being sure to eat together or get out to a park if you can.

Free stock photo of road, landscape, fashion, person

If you’re reading this during a lull between crises, plan ahead now by checking out a resource to review what is age appropriate for your children. One source to consult could be “Talking to Children About Tragedies” by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Now, back to the adults: We need each other in times like this. Introverts may need to heal in quiet solitude, then return to provide comfort to others. Extroverts may need to process verbally, thinking out loud while others mostly listen. Some people will curl up and cry; others may clean everything in sight. We may differ about causes and cures. We’ll need patience with each other. Remember, in spite of differences, we’re better together.

baby, blur, cat



What We Do

Mindfulness Stairs

Renewal Resources is a nonprofit, public benefit organization serving our community through therapy, classes, groups, support teams and retreats. We offer care and compassion, strategies and support to nurture your inner resources with hope, meaning and healing. 

Mindfulness Moment:

Stairway to ???

As you look at the picture above, what do you see? Does it feel like life is an uphill climb or that these are the stairs to an exciting new vista, an opportunity for a great view? Or does it look like the the stairs are descending, coming towards you?

Focus on the stairs … then notice the physical sensations in your body? Do you notice any muscle tension or tiredness? What thoughts pop into your head? Are they more like …”The stairs would make climbing that hill easier.” or “Why isn’t there a hand rail?” Do they feel inviting or intrusive?

Focus on the trees for a moment.  Pay attention to your body again. What do you notice? Any changes in heart rate or breathing rate? Any new thoughts? For some the trees may be lush and rich, comforting representatives of evergreen, ever growing life even when the grass is dry and brittle. For others they may be annoying, in the way, and blocking the view.

Our bodies tell us a lot. They are an early warning alarm of discouragement or anxiety or they can be an indicator of peace. Listen to your body. It’s alert and informative long before the thoughts formulate in your mind. But notice those instinctive thoughts as well. The quick little thoughts often tell us more about ourselves than the well-formed opinions we share with others. Mindfulness often means to just stop and notice. If we become uncomfortable when we stop and notice, that’s important information.

If you notice more tendencies toward depression or anxiety than you’d like to live with, find a skilled professional to walk with you towards the future you would rather live into. If you live or work near Los Altos or Fremont, California, call 408-420-7895 for an initial free phone consultation.