AMES, Iowa – Parents naturally are concerned for their children’s safety, particularly when there is news of a child abduction that happens close to home. Finding the balance between emotions and the “teachable moment” as parents talk to their children is important, an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialist says.
According to Malisa Rader, an ISU Extension family life program specialist, preteens and older school-age children might be dealing with their own fears based upon what they are seeing on TV or hearing from others.
“It is important at this time that parents react with a sense of calm and reassurance,” Rader said.
Parents can take this opportunity to share with their children important information to help avoid potentially dangerous situations, but need to approach it in a manner that doesn’t create unhealthy fears in children.
Rader offered some suggestions from eXtension.org/parenting:
Rader encourages parents to watch their children closely for signs of anxiousness. Being open to talk about those feelings while developing safety strategies can help children feel in control of situations. They can learn to make good choices when faced with possible unsafe circumstances, while still enjoying some of the carefree aspects of childhood.
“Be open to how your child might be feeling and talk with him or her with sincerity and honesty,” Rader said.
This is an opportunity to discuss any number of issues with teens and preteens — from not putting themselves in particularly dangerous situations to how to react when they sense they might be in potential danger, Rader said.
“This is a teachable moment, so use it! But doing so in a calm, reassuring manner will help your point come across more clearly without raising unhealthy fears in young people,” the ISU Extension specialist said.
The following signs are normal reactions to severe stress, Rader said. However, if one or more of the signs continue for more than a week, seek outside help.
“Help is available,” Rader said. “You don’t have to face these problems alone. If you note any signs of anxiousness or depression in your child or your self, talk with a mental health professional, your family doctor or clergy. These people can provide extra support when you need it.”
Iowans can call the ISU Extension and Outreach Iowa Concern Hotline, 800-447-1985, for help and referrals for dealing with stress, crisis and loss.