Talking to your Kids About Tragedy

The cool weather has set in, school is in full swing, and the holidays are right on our heels. For most this is a time of excitement and ? but there is this looming sadness over our country almost every day. For many parents there is an overwhelming responsibility to discuss things that are not so cheerful with their children on an almost daily basis.

It seems every morning we wake up to another tragic event taking place somewhere not too far from away. Just as we get over one tragedy, another strikes; and often we aren’t afforded the time to get over one before the next is upon us. Unfortunately, it’s as if tragedy has parked itself on our doorstep.

My kids are 2, 7, 9 and 10 and I’m constantly berated with questions or forcefully asked to lend a listening ear to their BIG questions or opinions about current events. These opinions are all too often littered with things they’ve likely learned from classmates or cobbled together from bits and pieces they have heard on the news or from conversations they’ve overheard. I’m constantly fact-checking seven-year-olds, 4th and 5th graders and in their world, it’s all about instant gratification so if I don’t have an answer they got straight to Siri or Alexa because ”Google has all the answers (duh)”.

Whether it’s a natural disaster, school shooting, or terrorist attack it can be hard to know what to say or if you should say anything at all. I wanted to highlight some tips on just how to talk to your little ones during these tragic times.

Answer their questions, but think ahead.

They WILL have questions. It’s best not to avoid them. Answer them so they don’t get misled by their friends or the media. The Mayo Clinic suggests “Listen closely to your child for misinformation, misconceptions, and underlying fears.”

Most likely your child or children have been thinking about all of the things they want to ask you. They are quick and curious, you need to be one step ahead so think about what you might be walking into, the kinds of questions you may be asked, and where you want to stop.

You have the choice to talk about it as little or as much as you need.

You know what is best for your family, you know what they can and cannot handle. Take that into consideration. You may need to talk to your children individually if age or maturity comes into play.

Give them broad strokes and give them time to think about it. You don’t have to give them all of the details. But pay close attention to their reactions and how they are processing the information.

Help them feel safe.

Limit their media exposure, or anxiety and fear could follow. Young minds may not know how to cope with the incredible about of information and opinion today’s media jam-packed with.

Nurture whatever emotional response they may have to the information. Confusion, anger, sadness are all completely normal reactions to have to these events. Maintain your normal routine and help your babies to understand that while we see so much tragedy on television these events are rare and point out that that there are many mechanisms in place to keep them safe. Extra love and hugs never hurts either.

If you don’t quite feel up to the task but know you want to speak with your children about the things happening in our world check for resources at your child’s school or pediatrician.

My heart goes out to all of those who were touched or effected by the senseless events that took place in Pittsburgh this past weekend. One way as parents that we can take part in helping to end the senseless crime and terror being spread in our neighborhoods and across our nation is to help our children understand more about our differences and encourage tolerance and respect for those differences; using them as ways to learn and grow, and become better human beings.

For more about talking to your kids about tragedies visit: The American Academy of Pediatrics or The Mayo Clinic.

Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding treatment questions, concerns, or clinical opinions.

Author: Candise P. Miller

Photographer, multi-disciplinary designer, and mommy. Candise is a New York native currently residing in Washington, DC with her husband, four tiny humans and pup. She is a passionate creative and mom on a mission to live the life of her dreams and inspire others to do the same.

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