talking to children about violence and tragedy, discussing difficult topics with kids, supporting children during tough times, communication tips for parents, helping kids understand challenging events
Mental Health

5 tips for talking to your child about violence and tragedy

Talking to your child about violence and tragedy: Children are born with the desire to acquire knowledge about their surroundings and their involvement in them. Bringing in new knowledge, promoting social, and making much sense of what they’ve discovered are all important parts of how kids develop and mature.

When violence and sorrow occur, it is difficult for parents to shield their kids from that information before having the chance to talk about it with them. If children do not know about it at home, they may hear about it from other children at childcare centers or schools, on media platforms, or by watching the news on their televisions. When major events occur, it is critical that children are sufficiently educated by anyone they rely on for their security and well-being.

Nevertheless, given the never-ending nature of online platforms and 24-hour news reporting, how can you prevent your kid from being too connected to and disturbed by tragedies occurring across the world? And how do you go about addressing them about it?

There are 5 key things, parents can do to help their children react in a balanced manner to prevent emotional damage.

  1. Give the restricted facts (for children aged 4 and up).

While you can (and should) protect children under the age of 4 from unpleasant events, they will almost definitely notice it when they reach daycare or elementary school. Your kid is going to feel less worried when he or she hears about the situation from you first. Children may believe that avoiding and not discussing tragedy with them is taboo. They may also attempt to conceal their worries by believing extreme versions of what they observe. It is your duty to make sure that your child gets the proper viewpoint and knowledge of events.

Providing your kid with simple, correct information that isn’t too unclear is one technique to support them. Take care to keep it simple as this can become overpowering or confusing. Understand that your kid will most likely view the incident differently than you will. Ask them an open-ended question, such as, “What do you think about that?” This allows you to determine what your youngster has heard. It will assist you figure out how they feel about the issue and what queries and worries they have. Your child will pick up on your feelings, so try to remain peaceful and soothing.

  1. Assure your child that he or she is protected.

The most significant thing to keep in mind throughout these chats is to assure your kid that they are secure and to maintain a constant and friendly environment. Returning to your family’s regular routine gives the clearest indication to children that everything is fine. It is common for a child to need time to process a traumatic situation. Tell your youngster how much you adore them on a regular basis. Also, tell them that they’re able to talk to you about their ideas, problems, or questions at any time. A kiss or cuddle can also assist to ease their anxiety.

For older children, this may include explaining that the horrible occurrence occurred far away and informing them about the efforts of police, firemen, airline security guards, and others to prevent further harm. Mr. Rogers, the beloved children’s show host, has some crucial advice that has brought peace of mind through difficult times: “Look for the assisters.”

Examine your personal home’s safety features, including smoke detectors and deadbolts. It may also be beneficial to put together a survival kit. A torch, first aid pack, comforter, and bottles of water are examples of emergency supplies. Besides ensuring that they are ready for an emergency, physically creating the kits can help children feel like they have some control over how they maintain themselves and their families secure.

Reassuring your child after school violence

It can be particularly difficult to convince your youngster that they are protected when the situation includes a school shooting. Unlike a weather-related disaster like a tornado, it may seem like there’s no means of clarifying why this unimaginable crime occurred, or to clearly assure them that this will never occur at their campus.

What you’re able to do immediately now is give them only the information that is absolutely essential and provide them with your love, kisses, and encouragement as you receive the news together. If they want to discuss, Encourage them to communicate their feelings. Provide them with sufficient time to process if they require it.

It’s a smart option to seek professional advice on how to handle that specific occurrence with your child from a reliable source. You can seek help from your pediatrician, a school psychologist, or a child psychiatrist. They can frequently give you actionable ideas to assist you in giving support, pleasure, and calm to your child.

  1. Turn off the TV

A Kaiser Family Foundation research found that 65% of youngsters have homes where the media is on at least fifty percent of the time. It is always on in 36% of houses. Many young children use the web and social media on a regular basis. This means that people might be exposed to news events through internet pop-ups and sidebar adverts, even if they’re just engaged in a video game. Never leave small kids alone with a television or even other media item. Be mindful of what is playing or displaying, and be ready to talk about violent information with your child if it comes on. When you are concerned by violent or unpleasant images on television, it is also a smart move to alter the network or change websites.

Loud noises, bright lights, and aggressive seeming or looking persons will frighten small kids, who frequently confuse reality and fantasy. Kids frequently do not understand what “far away” implies. And if they experience repeated repeats of the same terrifying incident, they may believe that new events are happening.

Make it a routine to watch the news with children over the age of 4, so that they may gain insight into the globe and their role in it. This will let kids realize that the world is not simply filled with tragedy. Nonetheless, it is still necessary to restrict violent images for school-age children, not just in the media, but in all screen usage for youngsters.

  1. Discuss feelings and thoughts openly.

Express your thoughts about the incident with your kid, and invite them to express their feelings as well. Early support of effective discussion helps children notice and manage their own feelings as they occur, rather than concealing them, and it makes it simpler to allow them to come to you when they would like to chat about a topic in the future.

Play allows young children to more freely convey what they are feeling and thinking. You can give your child pencils, crayons, play dough, puzzles, dolls, stuffed animals, or other objects to act out or illustrate their responses to news affairs. Examine your child’s play and then talk about it with them.

Make an effort to listen to and calm your youngster. Recognize their emotions and assure them that it is OK to be unhappy, angry, or stressed. Make it clear to them that they are not too responsible when horrible incidents occur. 

  1. Keep an eye on the behavior

Children are affected in various ways by disaster and the anxiety that it brings. Keep a watch out for changes in behavior in your kid, such as:

  • Variations in feeding or toileting
  • Having difficulty going to sleep or having nightmares
  • Increasing interest in war-themed games
  • Extra issues with separation
  • Complaints about stomachaches, headaches, or tiredness
  • Sobbing, yelling, angry outbursts, or tantrums
  • Showing up younger than their age, such as sucking their thumb or requesting that you feed or clothing them
  • Lack of attention to homework or withdrawal from family and close friends

If you’ve never discussed violence or sorrow in the media with your child, these behaviors could indicate that they have been introduced to it elsewhere. If you have discussed the situation, continue to comfort your child that everything is safe and encourage them to share their thoughts and emotions with you. 

The excellent thing is that most children are fairly resilient. It is typical for your youngster to not feel entirely reassured right away. If his or her altered conduct endures for longer than 2-4 weeks, it might be worth looking for expert help.

What to do if you believe your child may require expert help

Begin by taking your kid to the pediatrician or other medical expert with whom your family has regular well-child appointments. Someone who is already aware of your child and their medical history is frequently well enough to identify how stress affects them and how to help them relax. That clinician can also help you assess whether seeing a children’s mental health specialist would be helpful, or they’ll put you in touch with someone who can.

It’s also crucial to contact your child’s school or a staff member at school who sees them on a routine basis during the school year. School employees, such as counselors, may have additional opinions on how your child’s conduct has been influenced and may be ready to provide resources.