Talking to Kids About Tragic Events
Unfortunately, our kids are growing up in a world in which brutality and violence happen far too often. We see tragic events on local and international news; our newsfeeds are frequently peppered with headlines about death and destruction. Being exposed to traumatic atrocities inevitably has an effect on our mental and physical health, and undoubtedly that of our children. How do we support them through dealing with tragedy? How do we guide them in finding positivity and courage in spite of terror? How can we make sure that we ourselves don’t become numb to horrible events that happen both in our country and around the globe, and how do we make sure that our children don’t become numb either?
Talk, Talk, Talk, …and Listen
Talking to kids about a tragic event isn’t easy, but it’s so important. Express your thoughts, worries, and feelings. Encourage your children to do the same; listen and reflect together when they do. Some important tips and topics to cover:
- Be calm and reassuring about your kids’ safety. Acknowledge the potential fear they might feel and help them know that you will do everything you can to keep them safe.
- Dispel any misinformation about the tragic event that your children may be receiving. Ask them what they have already heard or read. Help them parse through what is credible and what is not.
- Let them ask questions and be a good listener. Realize that you might not have all the answers, and that this is perfectly fine. This is an opportunity to learn and react together.
- Teach your children age-appropriate ways to help others who might also be struggling with these difficult issues. Ask them about their friends and how they might be affected by distressing current events.
While these conversations about tragic events are very crucial, it is also important to keep up normal life routines. We must continue to move forward and not live in fear.
What Else Can I Do?
- Examine your own beliefs about the issue at hand. Your children will likely adopt your values and mimic your actions. Ask yourself: “Am I demonstrating good behaviors on this issue in front of my children?”
- Be aware of your and your children’s mental health as it relates to these events. Avoiding exposure to violent movies, television programs, and video games can help limit anxiety and fear associated with tragic events. Be conscious of the effect of social media on both you and your family – it is far too easy for graphic, frightening content to get in front of innocent eyes. Don’t hesitate to speak to a doctor, counselor, social worker, or mental health professional sooner rather than later if you are concerned that your child’s emotional health is affected and you’re not sure how to manage it.
- Find out what is being done by your child’s school, daycare, or in your community. Are counselors publicly available to help your child talk through their emotions? Do they have their own plan to keep the school secure and a plan to ensure safety if there is a security breach?
Hug your kids tight today and always.