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Helping Our Children Feel Safe in Stressful Times



Maria Sikoutris Di Iorio, MA, EdS, MFT, LPC

Stress is a common part of everyone’s life, including our children. Children can worry about exams or being accepted by friends, and since March 2020, our children have been affected socially, emotionally, and academically by the pandemic. Now they’re seeing and hearing about major violence from the war in Israel. A certain amount of stress is normal; however, too much stress can be unhealthy. Disturbing events in the news or in the home can increase a child’s stress and make them feel unsafe.

It’s important that we pay attention to a child’s environment. Be aware of what children are hearing and watching on the news as well as on social media. Open and honest discussions are keys to helping children understand events. Encourage children and teens to express their fears, concerns and worries. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs.

The best place to start with children is to ask questions. However, before asking questions be sure you have worked through your own feelings. You can ask questions such as what have you heard? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Having an open and honest conversation will help your child feel safe and secure. Use developmentally appropriate language to answer questions. Speaking from a place of calm and security, even when you are not necessarily feeling that on the inside is important. Children look to parents to see how they should react. Modeling a calm rational response and making space for questions will help kids feel less anxious and help your family to process the news in a healthy way. If you are feeling anxious and fearful, it will easily pass on to others.

What are some of the warning signs that your child is struggling and depressed with current events?

· Sleeping too much or too little

· Eating patterns have changed…either eating too much or too little

· Loss of interest in friends

· Loss of interest in social media

· Mood changes

· Feelings of rage or anger

If you notice a change in your child’s behavior, continue to have open and honest conversations, create time to listen and be available to talk. Limit media exposure and try to maintain a normal routine. Reassure your children that they are safe. Seek the help of mental health professionals right away if you are concerned.

At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, New Jersey we have a team of licensed professionals available to speak with you. We are available day, evening, and weekend hours. Please feel free to call us at 908-322-0112 or visit us at


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