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2003 News from Mecklenburg County

March 20, 2003

MECKLENBURG COUNTY AREA MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM
HELPS CHILDREN AND PARENTS WITH FEARS AND WORRIES

CHARLOTTE, NC -- How do we help our children feel safe? The question is one mental health experts say parents and other adults who care for children are seeking to answer now that America is at war. A Mecklenburg County program called Child Development-Community Policing Partners (CD-CP) can help.

"As our country prepares for war, we feel our stress and worries increase," said Sarah Greene, CD-CP program coordinator. "What about our children? How do we talk to them about war?  How do we help them feel safe in these troubled times?  Whom can we turn to for advice as to how to help our children cope?"

Mecklenburg County Area Mental Health (AMH) has licensed clinicians who partner with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services/Youth & Family Services Division to provide acute trauma response to children who are witnesses or victims of violence.  This local program, Child Development-Community Policing Partners (CD-CP), is part of a national network of police-mental health partnerships, affiliated with the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence (NCCEV) at the Yale Child Study Center.  Information about this national initiative can be found at www.nccev.org

The National Center for Children Exposed to Violence recently released a Guide for Parents for talking to children about war, as well as a Guide for Teachers, both available on the NCCEV Web site. The guide for parents is also available in Spanish. The information includes examples of how children might communicate their upset feelings, some questions they might have, and general responses to their questions. The NCCEV offers the following tips:

Children whose family members or friends are directly involved in the war or are in the military will be more directly impacted.

Ongoing threats of terrorism may add to children's distress related to the war and war may heighten concerns about terrorism.

Children who have experienced trauma and loss or have longstanding emotional problems are most vulnerable during periods of new threats.

Reactions will vary from child to child depending upon a variety of factors including their personality, age, developmental level and personal history.

Not all children will appear to be affected by news of the war.  For some children, especially younger ones, it is not helpful to "force the issue" if it does not appear to have an impact.

When thinking about how to talk to your children, take your lead from them in terms of what they need and what they are thinking and feeling.

Helping children deal with a difficult event is hard work-parents should seek help and support from other adults when needed.

Mecklenburg County AMH employs licensed mental health clinicians who staff the CD-CP program.  They are experts at talking to children and parents about fears and worries, and are available for public speaking engagements.

For more information, contact CD-CP Program Coordinator, Sarah Greene, ACSW, LCSW, at 704-336-2944.



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