Tips for Talking to Kids about Tragic Events
Last Friday night, many of us stayed up late watching the news unfold out of Paris. “As a mother of a 5 and 6 year old, I kept the news off while they were in the room and remember running up to the TV to turn it off when a Sunday morning story about the death toll suddenly came on,” writes Dr. Robyn Silverman on her recent blog. “That’s not the way I want them to find out. Still, I don’t have my head in the sand.”
Dr. Robyn Silverman, who was a keynote speaker during Generation WOW earlier this month, shares 7 tips for parents, teachers and mentors on how we can talk to our children about tragic events such as the Paris attacks. Here are 3 of her tips:
You are the trusted source: If you have a feeling that your children will hear about the tragedy in school, talk to them about it as soon as possible. You can give them the information that is true, appropriate and helpful. Older children might want to learn more about who was involved in the attacks- and there are some websites that provide easy-to-understand information that you can read together or you can read and then discuss the points that you feel are necessary. For example there is this and this for explanations of more complicated facts.
Use age-appropriate language and information: Children don’t need to hear the gory details. Give them the information that they need to know in words that they would understand. You can be factual without being gruesome. It is important to set the tone and provide the facts instead of allowing someone else, who may not be correct or appropriate, to do it for you.
Allow emotions and fears to surface: Don’t dismiss your children’s fears or emotions. Rather, allow them to have a safe place to express them. If you are upset (as humans, of course we are!), you can talk about being sad or frustrated without going into full detail or matching their intensity. For example, you can say; “I am sad this happened to these people” or “I am frustrated that I can’t help.” In fact, it’s best for adults to talk to other adults about their own feelings rather than delving in deep with children who may not be fully equipped yet to understand.
What advice do you have for talking to young children about tragic world events?