Life is predictably unpredictable. Everyone experiences various unexpected “emergencies.” Some emergencies are of an emotional nature. For instance, sometimes an adolescent goes into crisis because of the breakup of an important relationship. Other emergencies are of a physical nature. For instance, sometimes a child gets injured and requires stitches or surgery. Some emergencies involve catastrophic events such as tsunamis, acts of war, rape and other traumas. Some emergencies are more mundane, involving broken ovens the evening the in-laws are coming for dinner or stalled cars on the way to important meetings.
Modeling Coping Strategies
The way in which a parent handles an emergency becomes a model engraved in a child’s brain. If a parent gets hysterical in the face of emergency, a child learns that hysteria is the correct response to crisis. If a parent stays calm and level-headed, a child learns that one can hold oneself together in the face of overwhelming events. Many adults who cope poorly with emergencies are the products of parents who did the same. Consider whether this is the style of coping YOU want to pass on to your children (and grandchildren!).
Helping Children Cope with Emergencies
Children look to adults to see what to do in the case of an emergency. Someone suddenly collapses into a faint – how do the adults cope? What do they do? Someone gets badly injured and is bleeding through his clothes and onto the floor. What do the adults do? What emotions do they show? What do they say?
If it is the child himself who is in a state of emergency, he still observes how his parents are handling the situation. However, he has the added experience of noting how HE is handled during the crisis. Are people shouting at him? Are they speaking in soothing, reassuring tones? Are they grabbing him or handling him sensitively? A child or teen who is in shock will do much better with steady, confident caregivers. Suppose the child has fallen and is in agony with a bone protruding where it should not. Slow, calm movements will both ease her physical pain and her emotional distress. The last thing the child needs is a parent who is screaming or running madly around. Calm handling actually facilitates the healing process.
Many parents are ready and prepared for inevitable crises. Some keep the Bach Flower called Rescue Remedy on hand in a cupboard and/or purse. The first step during any emergency of any kind is to reach for these drops that settle the body, mind and emotions. The tincture helps people to cope well with sudden shock, bad news, terrifying conditions, intense fear and other reactions to intensely upsetting events. Even having such a potion on hand gives children the message that the unexpected in life is always expected and that there are steps one can and must take in order to handle those situations well. You can find more information on Rescue Remedy and Bach Flowers online or in books.
Although one cannot be prepared for every disaster scenario, nor does one need to be, it is certainly helpful to think about how one ideally WANTS to manage in situations of intense stress and upset. What do you WANT your kids to know? What do you need to do for yourself, in order to be able to provide them with the healthiest model of coping? Instead of accidentally passing on dysfunctional ways of coping, parents can think about the messages and models they received and evaluate their current utility. Perhaps there is a better way. Perhaps some counseling is needed in order to repair past learning. Conscious parenting always empowers parents to do their best in every situation.