Lately, tragedy seems to be everywhere. Whether a natural disaster such as hurricanes Harvey and Maria, or a mass murder by shooting in Las Vegas, the news headlines have been scary, tragic, and unpredictable in recent weeks and months.
It is complicated for adults to wrap our heads around what has been happening in our world, and it can be confusing to know how to talk to our children about it. Avoiding the topic doesn’t make it go away. We encourage you to speak openly as a family about the recent events.
Here are four ways parents can help their children deal with frightening news:
- Monitor your children’s exposure to television, radio, social media
The news can be helpful, but it can also be scary. Watching the same news clips over and over could lead to secondary trauma and cause your children to become more frightened. Monitor and limit how much television your children are watching, how much radio they are listening to, and their exposure to social media, especially before bedtime. Now may be the time to set more guidelines regarding the media sources they are allowed to access.
- Ensure safety as much as possible
Even though it may seem our world is unsafe, it is important for your children to feel a sense of safety in their day-to-day world. Talk to them about the people who can help keep them safe, including the adults in their home and school, and the first responders in their community. Also review the safety plan in your own home and at school, and what they can do if they ever feel unsafe (call 911, tell a trusting adult, etc.).
- Answer questions honestly, and simply
Kids have big imaginations and sometimes fast-traveling rumors at school can appear to validate a story. Encourage your children to come to you with questions, and answer them honestly, yet simply. Follow their lead about how much information they are seeking, and start with simple answers. Remember, it’s okay to not know an answer. When this happens, simply validate how hard it can be to sit with the unknown and ask about what they think they answer might be.
- Tell stories about the helpers; encourage your children to find ways to help
Tell your children stories about the people who are helping in times of tragedy. Talk about stories of the people who are saving others, who are giving back in the form of monetary donations, or donating blood, supplies, etc. Encourage your family to come together to find a way you can help (host a bake sale or a tag sale and donate the proceeds to a local charity).
For resources to help children deal with grief, visit our Children’s Programs page: https://www.caredimensions.org/grief-support/childrens/.