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When Tragedy Strikes: Talking To Kids About Tragedy in the News

When faced with tragic events, it can be hard to explain it to your child. How do I make sense of something so senseless? Here are some tips for talking to kids about tragedy.

Talking to kids about tragedy - here are some tips for how to talk to your child about tragic situations

Kids and tragic events in the media

There have been so many recent tragic events in America, the mass shootings at schools, churches, public events, and most recently, an Orlando nightclub, and I think that tragic situations are an inevitable conversation to have with your kids. When tragedy strikes, kids will eventually hear about it through the news, the radio, online, and even through friends at school.

Helping kids understand bad news

Why does this seem to be a new normal? It’s disgusting. It’s inhumane. Vial. But it’s become real life for us, and as I struggled when talking to kids bout tragedy and the events they’ve heard about, I decided I would be honest, open and up front, and answer any questions my kids may have. Want to discuss dreadful events with your child? Here are some tips on talking to kids about tragedy in the news.

teddy bear candle light dealing with tragedy

Photo credit via Visual Hunt CC BY-SA

How To Talk to Kids About Tragedy In The News

Ask them what they already know and be supportive

A great way to start the conversation about a tragic event is to ask your child what they’ve heard about it. This way, you have a starting point of what your child already knows, and how much more you’d like them to know about the situation. Whatever they say, think, feel and express, make sure you support them.

Tailor your conversation to their age

Child Psychologist Dr. Phyllis Ohr encourages parents to speak at the appropriate age level when talking to kids about tragedy.“Begin by giving the child a brief synopsis of what happened by using age-appropriate language. Ask if there is something they want to know more about or if they need something explained further. If so, stick to pointedly answering their question or clarifying.”

Ask your child how they feel

According to Dr. Ohr, it’s a good idea to ask your child how they feel and be reassuring to let them know that what they are feeling is ok. “Do not assume the news will make children feel a certain way. Ask if they know how they feel, but stress that kids feel all different ways when they hear important news and sometimes do not know how they feel or do not feel anything which is okay. However, if children are affected by it, it is their own feeling. Reassure children that no matter what they are feeling, their feelings are okay.”

Limit their media exposure

Your kids do not need to see images and video of violence, explosions, grief, and hear news anchors talking about it over and over again. CEO Karen Remley, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAP of American Academy of Pediatrics released this important statement regarding kids and prolonged exposure to tragic events: “As pediatricians, we know that violence can have lasting effects on children even if they are only learning about it through the media. The AAP urges everyone to take care with the images that children see and hear about.

If they become upset, change the subject

You never know how your child will react, they might not bat an eye. Alternatively, your child may become very upset, especially if it affects them directly or is very close to home. If this happened, end the conversation and try to redirect their attention to something else. Hopefully, their negative feelings will subside, and you got to talk with your child about the situation at least for a little bit.

Talk with your kids about tragic events

Please do not be silent when tragic situations happen here in the U.S. and afar, use some of these tips for talking with kids about tragedy. With these school shootings happening in our new reality, it is important for kids to know what’s out there. It is unfortunate but necessary – you never know what they know, until you discuss it!

No more hate, let there be peace

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