When we hear about something like a school shooting or a plane crash, it is absolutely heartbreaking. Trying to explain these events to our children is even harder. However, knowing about these situations and allowing them to be open about their feelings will teach them important life lessons. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are some tips to help you talk through such sensitive topics:
- Don’t hide the truth.As difficult as it is to tell a child about a tragic event, it needs to happen. Of course, not all details need to be shared. You can base the level of information you provide on the age of the child and their ability to understand. Younger children do not need any graphic details, photographs or sounds, but older children may wish to watch the news and follow with more questions about the incident. Just be prepared to have an open dialogue with your child.
- Let them express their thoughts.Hearing about a tragedy can be very painful to a child. Give them space to process the information. They may come to you right away, or some not until much later after they have processed the information on their own terms. Always ensure them that you are available when they are ready to discuss and gently remind them that you are ready to answer their questions should they have any. Let them cry if they need to, and don’t be afraid to cry with them.
- Talk about how to promote safety.The good news is that many tragedies can be avoided. It is a great idea to go over basic safety tips with your child.Ask them what they may already know about safety drills or if they know what they should do in certain situations. This safety conversation should even include the digital realm, as there are various threats that can be presented and identified before they turn into something worse.
- Talk about how to help. Is there anything you and your child can do to help those affected directly by the tragedy? How can your child help ensure their friends are also prepared? In going back to the safety conversation, use these times as learning opportunities, discussing ideas on how to help prevent tragedies in their own community.
- Let your child know that you are there for them.Children are resilient. Too often, though, if something they hear or see is bothering them, they won’t let on. Talking about tragedies can make a big impression on their minds, allowing them to acknowledge and understand their feelings. Emotions are complex, and being able to talk about them will help them grow with emotional maturity. Let them know that if they feel afraid, if they need to be comforted after a bad dream, if they want to talk, or if they simply need a hug, that you are there for them.
Talking about tragedies is never easy. But in the end, your child will be stronger and more aware because of your conversations. If you have any questions about your child’s health and mental wellness, contact us today.