How to Talk to Your Kids About Tragedy in the News

How to Talk to Your Kids About Tragedy in the News

I am saddened to have to post this today. It seems in the past twelve months I’ve posted something similar too much. It’s overwhelming. I’ve already spoken to parents who are saying, “Parenting feels so difficult today. How do I explain this?”

Parenting is difficult, especially when events like the tragedy in Boston yesterday occur. You want to shield your child’s innocence, and protect them from worry and fear – all while you are whirling inside with anger, sadness, or worry.

Here are some tips to talk to your child about tragedy in the news:

1. Before you talk to your child or answer any questions, check in with your own feelings. Take a deep breathe. Be honest with yourself because children are perceptive and they will notice too. It’s okay to say, “Mommy feels sad for the people who were hurt.” Follow up, with a positive statement for your child, such as suggesting a way to volunteer help or a reminder of why your child is safe.

2. Explore your child’s thoughts. If they ask a question inquire further. Find out what they know and how they feel about it – don’t assume. Kids talk and have great imaginations – check in with what they know. (Ask without providing too much detail)

3. Validate your child’s feelings with statements such as, ” It was a scary event.” Statements such as “Don’t worry about it, you don’t need to feel scared, or “get over it” are not helpful.
4. The news can make events that are uncommon feel as though they happen everyday everywhere affecting a child’s sense of safety. Talk to your child about the news, how they focus on such events, and remind your child such disasters are not as common as the news may make it sound. Shield your child’s exposure to the news.
4. Get concrete. Talk numbers. For example, how many marathons occur every year and how many people were safe. Remind your child they are safe and why.
5. Keep explanations simple and age appropriate.
6. Check in with your teens. With technology today it is quit likely they have been exposed to information about the tragedy. Talk to them.
7. Invite your child to get involved in a volunteer project to help others. This is a great tool in helping deal with tragedy and disasters. For example, send cards, make a donation, or look up ways you can help the people of Boston. 

8. Instill some hope. Remind your child, as Mr. Roger’s says, “Of the helpers.” Talk about the emergency responders, the heroic bystanders and runners who did not run away but towards the people to offer help. In times of crisis, remind your child there are always people to help. That the helpers outnumber the those that hurt. 

9. Seek support if your child is appearing overly anxious or withdrawn.