Prof.dr.sc. Gordana Buljan Flander and Dragana Matešković, psychologist held a three-week workshop (from 2 February through 2 March 2012) titled "Sexual abuse of children – identification, interview and criteria for confirming allegations" in Teslić, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center has prepared infographics with tips on how to cope with the traumatic experience of an earthquake, to help parents, young people and everyone who was hit by an earthquake yesterday in Zagreb and add to the burden of everyday life that we already have in special circumstances of social isolation and restrictions to combat the coronavirus pandemic” writes journalist Tajana Tretnjak for the Miss7Mama /24sata.hr portals. She talked to the psychologist of the our Center, Mia Roje Đapić about how to help children overcome the traumatic experience of earthquake:
“Mia Roje Đapić, MS psychology explained to us that the situation we found ourselves in was not only “stressful” but traumatic. “Traumatic events are those that are outside of ordinary human experience, which pose a threat to life, health, safety and integrity, to us personally, to our close people or to others in our environment with whom we can identify. As a result of such traumatic experience, a psychological crisis can develop as a state of overwhelm in which our usual ways of coping are no longer functional and applicable to us. As adults, everything described can happen to children and young people, and this is something we cannot fully protect” said the psychologist, and note that noting that it is important for parents to be honest with their children about basic information about what happened, not to they do not embellish or diminish (eg, we go to our uncle for a few weeks to visit him, not because the earthquake has destroyed our apartment).
“Kids feel like something is going on, they read your emotions from their faces, they hear other people’s news and experiences. It is imperative that they trust their parents, not wonder what the truth is, receive double messages and thus feel even more insecure”
she explains, pointing out that children should of course not be overwhelmed with lots of information which are non-developmentally appropriate, add on bombasticity of information and panic. So, inform them with a appropriate language relatied to thair age, brief, clear and specific.
We cannot protect children from our emotions because they see them
We also asked the psychologist what emotions we can now show in front of children, because this is an event that evokes thoughts and emotions in adults that probably most have not experienced before. “We cannot protect children from our emotions because they see them. More than 80 percent of communication is non-verbal, so not what we say, but how we look, what our tone of voice, body language is… If we are worried, we can tell it to the child; if we cry, we may cry. And we are person of flesh and blood, by being parents, you have not become Superman. In this way, we also give the child “permission” to express their emotions, give them an example that they are not ashamed to be sad or scared, as well as an example of how they can deal with these unpleasant emotions” she advises and emphasizes that when expressing emotions in front of a child, it is important just one thing – don’t overwhelm your child so that they feel they need to care for adults.
For example, we can say, “Yes, I am crying because I am sad. I’m going to cry a little so I’ll feel better. And this will pass, we will all be fine. How are you?”. “All the emotions that occur to you are normal. Do not psychiatry yourself or others, especially children. These are normal reactions to abnormal life circumstances – we can all agree that our current circumstances are really beyond normal” she says, adding that to some it will be as if nothing has happened, some will have panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, some they will be angry, sad, irritable, crying, some children will look for solitude, some will start to act regressively, eg ask them to sleep with their parents in bed again, they will suck their thumb… But all that is OK. „Be gentle with yourself, with each other, with timely information from trusted sources, not all day on social media. Try to get back to normal activities and routines as much as possible. Try to enable that for your child as well. Eat, drink, stay warm – if you can manage it for today, it works great. If you are too much or are concerned about your mental health, call free psychological assistance phones – confidential, free, 24/7. That what is difficult and chaotic to you is the criterion of normality. This will pass” she concludes.
Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center can not be held legally responsible for any translation inaccuracy.