We’ve ALL Been Through A LOT…Coping with Collective Traumas

  • March 15th, 2022
  • By Pathway Caring for Children

In the past 2 years, there have been a multitude of traumas that each of us have experienced or witnessed through media exposure. The recent attack on Ukraine, the resulting refugee crisis, the international response to these traumas, and the impacts in the US are other significant crises that impact us at all ages.

This combination of traumas and stressors may feel overwhelming right now. This may be especially true if you have experienced prior traumas and are being reminded of those past experiences. Below are strategies to help you cope right now.

1. Have compassion for yourself and others. You may not be able to show up in the same ways you could before. That is okay. You are doing your best. Assume the same for your family, co-workers, and friends. Consider the perspective of others to help you connect to their emotions and empathize with their experiences.

2. Self-reflect before reacting. Your emotions are valid. Your feelings of anger, bitterness, grief, and fears about the future need to be acknowledged before deciding how to respond. Sometimes, just taking a moment for a few slow breaths can help as you gather your thoughts. Adjust your response to reflect understanding, caring, and support.

3. Search for meaning. You may be observing that systems and institutions are failing to protect those they are meant to serve. This can challenge your trust in other people, your religious beliefs, spiritual beliefs, or the ways you think about or view the world.

4. Acknowledge how your identities are being impacted. You may feel a heightened level of threat, fear, or lack of safety when aspects of your identities (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, and religion) are being targeted by violence, policy changes, hate speech and/or other actions. Find ways to get support from those who share your identities or are allies who understand how these traumas and stresses are impacting you.

5. Limit media and social media exposure. Media and social media coverage are constant. At times we feel obligated to “witness” the pain of others, however, you can pace yourself by limiting access to the news during blocks of the day to connect to people, pets, nature, or activities that restore and heal.

6. Take time to care for yourself. It is not selfish, but rather, it allows us to be better able to cope and to support others to the best of our abilities. The Pause, Reset, Nourish (PRN) Framework, a model for wellness, provides tips that may prove helpful throughout the day.

i. Pause to take a moment to scan how your body feels and acknowledge emotions.

ii. Reset is helping you to get balanced, steadier, calmer or focused on your next task

iii. Nourish helps you replenish your mind-body-heart and helps you to see how you can get through difficult times. Give yourself permission to do these things.

7. Connect with others. Engage with family and friends to bring a sense of joy, light-heartedness, and meaningful connections with others. If you are worried about how others are coping, check-in with them, and let them know you care. The simple act of noticing can offer healing for others.

8. Seek help. Sometimes, the layers of stress and trauma become overwhelming and interfere with our ability to complete our daily activities. Remember you are not alone; we all could use extra support navigating these difficult times. Reach out to 211 to find out about what local community supports are available. You can also speak to a mental health provider, health provider, or a trusted friend, or call a helpline such as those listed below:

  • Pathway Caring for Children 330-493-0083 is available to support the mental health needs of you and your children if stressors are impacting the lives of you and your loved ones.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Call (800) 273-TALK (8255) or Text “HELLO” to 741741

Things You Can Do for Your Children:

1. Spend time talking with your children. Have regular conversations with your children about what they are hearing, how these events are impacting them, and their reactions. Knowing that you are willing to have these conversations lets your children know they can rely on you and that they are not alone with all these intense emotions. Validate that their feelings are normal and encourage discussion and questions.

2. Identify other people your children may find supportive. Children may want to discuss their concerns with you as well as with others who share their identities or with whom they have been talking about current events. Help them find ways of connecting with these people so they can have additional supports during this time.

3. Help children feel safe. Talk with your children about their concerns over safety and problem-solve ways to address their concerns. This may include getting support from other trusted individuals, alerting school officials about what is happening, or seeking guidance from cultural or religious leaders.

4. Enhance your child’s coping. Reinforce that your children should be kind to themselves and that there are reasons why they aren’t feeling the same as before. They too can use the PRN framework and learn to pause, reset, and nourish themselves. Find family activities, including cultural and religious practices, that can be done together (e.g., dance night, try new recipes, walking, game night, spending time with out-of-town relatives virtually). Help create a routine for everyone in the family, which includes time for self-care and quiet.

5. Seek change. Discuss ideas to create change against injustices. This could include participating in a community group event, creating a group at school, or showing support to peers who may be feeling an increased sense of vulnerability. Be a positive role model for change in actions as well as words.

6. Check-in on a regular basis. Unfortunately, many stressors are likely to continue in the immediate future. Check-in with your children on a regular basis. This reinforces that you are there to support them.

7. Ask for help. Reach out when you need help or support. There is no manual for parenting at any time, especially during these incredibly stressful times. Your pediatrician, faith leader, and mental health agencies can be resources for support and guidance.

For more info about child traumatic stress go to www.NCTSN.org