How To Talk To Your Kids About Tragedy
How To Talk To Your Kids About Tragedy
My twinkies are 33 months & 2 weeks, 2 days old.
Many parents in the USA, right now especially, are tackling this issue in the wake of the Sandy Hook murders. It’s a touchy subject, especially when it comes to really young kids ages 5-10, maybe more depending on the child. Prior to that it likely won’t be a issue. The mind is still innocent and mostly sheltered, and unless questions are posed…children ages 4 and under likely won’t need any discussion about world events.
A death in the family is a bit different, as it hits them much closer to home. But of course the younger the child the more limited the amount of information that is needed..in all circumstances. There will be fewer questions, and a more innocent outlook. This should remain that way.
What about school-aged children who may turn on the TV and stumble by news such as the Sandy Hook Massacre, or more likely are out of your hands and protection, and behind school walls with possibly older kids talking?
Here are some tips:
1) Answer only questions that require answering.
Very detailed information need not be displayed to young kids, or in this case any of your kids if you can help it. Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t in the case of say a teenager. These things can easily scare young minds. Heck, they scare my old mind to. Limit information to what’s necessary, and if questions are asked, use personal, parental discretion in your answers.
2) Remember kids not only have different numerical ages, but different maturity levels.
Some 7 year olds may be more like a 10 year old or more like a 5 year old. Only an adult that truly knows their child can gauge this, again using personal discretion. Maturity should always be considered. Let your words reflect these things when talking about ANY tragedy they hear of, or anything that hits you close to home like a family death, etc.
3) Being honest is important. Being overly forth coming to young people is not. Plus, teach your kids it’s healthy to ‘FEEL’.
Meaning, don’t give out information that isn’t required of you. For young kids keep it very simple. Lying and withholding details are two very different things. You aren’t lying by shielding your children.
I caught my husband turning on the news the day after this tragedy struck, and making a comment on his cell phone with my 7 year old in the room. She didn’t seem to be paying attention, but we know most kids 6 and up especially, usually are aware of more than we may give them credit for. This isn’t the right thing to do.
I never watch the news in front of my kids both big and small. It’s brutal, full of details that can scare children, and reporters (despite how ever they feel personally) are not allowed to show emotion unknown to kids, and emotion is always an important thing to show, and is a critical element in healing. You always want to teach your child that it’s not only OK but is very healthy to feel, and to show their emotions both one way or another whenever need be.
4) Let them know these circumstances are not usual, normal, or something they will likely ever see in their lifetimes.
(Make them feel safe.)
You don’t want your small children to panic and fear their day to day life. You want their worlds to remain as pristine as possible while also knowing that there are bad people in the world, but the good people far overwhelm them, and that they are safe. Make them feel loved and protected always, and aware that these events are highly uncommon, and beyond unlikely to ever affect them personally.
They should always be aware of people around them and never trust too much, most especially strangers. But you don’t want to leave any fear in their heads and in their hearts. I would say, ”Why bring it up at all?” But chances are in such a heavily covered case like this one in Newtown, Ct., and for very good reason, it may be impossible to avoid it. In home you can, and from children who aren’t of school age, but kids will talk so mentally prepare yourself for questions even if you have yet to come into contact with any.
I took my husband aside while he watched the news and said, ”You are going to petrify her into not wanting to go to school. Are you crazy?” For whatever reason he didn’t think anything of it, but it ended that quickly. Parents have got to think about their children. They are easily affected by tragedy as we are, but they often feel more fear than we do. School is an important part of their lives and their future abilities. You do not want them to fear going there, though admittedly, I was very scared of sending my own on Monday morning. I just want to get to the holiday vacation already, as do they.
5) Always be accessible for conversation and approachable for sharing emotion.
Some kids like I did find it painfully hard to talk to their own parents when they are hurting, confused, scared, need answers or comfort. This is why parents need to always listen, lend an ear, not be too busy to sit down and speak with their kids, and yes children..they do know, and young to. Be empathetic, always accessible to them at any time for talking and a shoulder to lean or even cry on, and this will serve you and them well their entire lifetime.
As far as the media is concerned, if you are interested in this case or any case, just remember to make sure to do it when your little ones are at school, napping, or are fast asleep at night or in the early mornings. This is what I do. The last thing you want to do is help give a child you love possible nightmares or fear of school, etc. etc. Hold yourself as together as you can. Your fear impacts them! Everything you say and do impacts them.
‘Keep kids as innocent as you can, for as long as you can. One day they’ll be out of your protection. Let them embrace childhood and live it to the fullest. Growing up too fast is such a terrible, irreversible loss. Be real, but talk smart!” – Mama P.
God bless the beautiful souls who died last Friday. Our hearts are always with you.