The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School has left many parents hugging their children a little closer but one Ahwatukee Foothills children’s psychologist said it’s getting back to the regular routine that will be most beneficial for kids.
Dr. Salma Bhalla recently released her second book, “Stress in Children – Causes, Prevention and Intervention: A Guide for Parents and Teachers” and said the lessons taught in the book are especially timely now.
“It’s going to be very tough, but it is the parent’s own stress and anxiety that will be communicated to the child,” Bhalla said. “The more quickly the child goes back to his routine, the easier it will be for the child to bounce back from the stress. Routine and structure at this time is very important for the child. It’s the unusual event or a change in the routine that causes stress in the child. This is obviously a big change in the day-to-day routine for the child.”
Parents need to be there for the children above all, Bhalla said. Some children may have a delayed response to stress, but she says it’s important for parents to take the time to listen when a child is ready to speak. Once the child does begin to speak out, parents should reassure them that they are safe, go over some safety rules, give lots of hugs, and then move on.
“I strongly believe that young children do not need to watch the television event over and over again,” she said. “The news and media tend to focus a lot and talk a lot about the event, and it can be scary for children, especially young children. They do not need to be constantly watching the news and parents need to monitor that... Parents need to be there for them, but also not become overly protective of them.”
Bhalla is the author of “Cues and Clues to Children’s Behaviors: A guide to Raising a Happy Well-Adjusted Child.” After publishing her first book she began to do presentations with different organizations across the Valley. She noticed a great interest in her presentation on stress in children, which is what spurred the idea for her second book. Her book on stress in children is an e-book aimed for children ages 3 to 13.
“I have worked for 30 years with children and their families,” Bhalla said. “I did see a lot of stress in children generally. Stress can arise from different sources, even starting in preschool. At times children get affected by their parent’s stress, even though parents try to hide whatever problems they may be experiencing. Children are very observant. They will notice and hear what parents are saying, even when parents think they are not listening.”
In this time of great stress Bhalla hopes her book will provide some direction for parents, teachers and caregivers. Though it does not address the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting directly, and was not meant to, it can help to identify stress and then deal with it in a way that will be beneficial to the child.
“My book is focused on prevention,” Bhalla said. “I would hope that parents and teachers learn from the book the cues that children give, strategies to prevent stress in children, and if the stress arises I hope they can help the child before it becomes any worse.”
For more information on the book or to contact Bhalla, visit www.childbehaviorcues.com.
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