Our mission to support the mental health and wellness of Maine caregivers and their children got harder this week. We stand with our community, with the grieving, with the scared and the heartbroken. We are here to help as best we can. We are strong people and we have each other. Now is the time to turn toward one another and provide support.

The cutting edge of information on human development and childhood suggest that helping our kids feel safe starts with ourselves. This can be a hard task when we are in the grips of traumatic events. Ways we can provide support to them vary as widely as any family- but the key is to help them recover a sense of safety. They will look to you to see if they are safe. You can reassure them that you are safe and they are safe. You can reassure them that you will be there for them and if anything happens that you will protect them. These simple messages make a world of difference to a child. They want to know if they can trust you to keep them safe.

Ideas for re-establishing a sense of safety:
– Put on a favorite feel-good movie and make some of your family’s favorite movie snacks. Snuggle and breathe.
– Play favorite music and throw a dance party. If you’ve got fun lights – bust them out. If you have a bubble machine – now is its moment. Put on something uplifting like “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Don’t worry if the kids just watch you and don’t jump in. They are taking their cues from you and will feel your energy and intentions.
– Take a few quiet moments to sit with them in a peaceful location. Tell them you are available to listen and ask if they have any questions. Do your best to provide reassurance and factual answers. Being honest about the news in age-appropriate ways will help children navigate what they hear. Invite them to connect with you so they know they can trust you.
– The repetitive motion and sounds of coloring have a soothing effect on the nervous system. If possible, provide opportunities for children to use their hands and creativity. Just like we as adults sometimes appreciate fidgets when we feel anxiety, children also benefit from productive things to do with their hands. Provide beading projects, coloring or crafts. If their projects reflect their concerns allow them to explain them to you and what it means for them. If it seems to have nothing to do with the challenges they are facing that is fantastic too. They will process what they need to, when and how they need to if you provide that safe space for them to do so.
– Set them up in a cuddly spot and read a favorite book to them.
– Set them up with an audiobook that they know and love.
– Build a pillow fort.
– Set up a playful game to compare something tangible… for example “Which of these taste the best” or “rank these from your favorite to your least favorite.” Listen like knowing which thing is their favorite is THE MOST important thing in the world. Thank them for telling you.

These are just a few ideas to help you think about how you might help your children re-establish a sense of safety after such a horrible week. If you want more information about how to use these types of play consider looking into Playful Parenting.

We send our love to you all.

Maine Parents