The terrible tragedy that occurred in Orlando, FL this past week has emotions running high for all Muslims across the globe. This event may or may not have been related to the gunman’s religious beliefs, but either way, all Muslims will be facing the consequences to one man’s actions. Our children and young people are being faced with hate crimes daily, and we must help strengthen their Islamic literacy so they are ready to face anything that may come their way.
Most young children may not even be aware of what has happened in Orlando, Paris, or elsewhere, and for the very young, that may be the best course of action. However, most school-age children will hear about these events at school, on the playground, or on social media, and parents should be ready to discuss these concerns appropriately.
Here are some ways parents and teachers can help children process these tragic events.
Parents might find it easiest to pray that their children won’t ever hear anything, but being prepared is the best defense. Talk with your children, and find out what they know. Car rides and dinner times are great opportunities to have a casual discussion. Be honest, but age appropriate, with the discussion. A safe bet would be to have your children lead the conversation with what they know.
Watch your children’s behavior
Be aware of any changes to your children’s behavior over time. It’s common for them to be scared, confused, angry, or feel alone. Let them have these feelings, but reassure them that they are safe with you, at home and at school. Fear and anxiety can also take a physical toll on your children, showing up as headaches, stomach aches, or sleep disturbances. Let them know they are not alone, and make sure to add in extra bedtime snuggles and hugs.
Limit media exposure
Unless there is new information to be learned, limit the exposure to the news, TV, or radio. Seeing flashing lights or sirens, and hearing words such as gunman, shots fired, mass shooting, or death toll can trigger fear and anxiety in your children, at a time where you want them to feel safe.
Children thrive on routines, so keep school, activities and bedtime routines the same. By following a normal schedule, children will gain confidence and security from their everyday routines.
Look for the positives
A great way of processing and coping is to reach out to others in need. By helping others, you are reinforcing the positive in a tragic event. Have your children point out the helpers in situations, or have them go with you to donate blood, food, or other supplies. This is also a time to turn to God and the power of prayer. By praying for the afflicted, your family can get closer to God and seek His strength to understand what they cannot control.
Model healthy coping strategies
Make sure you, as the caretaker, are healthy. Seek out support when needed, so you can be a positive role model to your children. How a parent handles stress has a major impact on how your children will interpret the crisis.
Written by Sam’n Iqbal