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Health Tip: Talking to kids about tragedy

By: Spencer

Over the last several weeks, our computer and TV screens have been filled with the tragic news about violent shootings in Orlando, Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and Dallas. During such times, it’s challenging to know what to tell kids to explain these events and comfort them.

The most important first step is to have an open dialogue with your children and listen to their feelings and concerns. Empathize with them, ask what they know and explain that it’s OK for them to ask questions.

What you tell your kids may be different depending on their age. Here are some age-appropriate tips.

·         Preschoolers: Tell them sometimes bad or scary things happen but you’ll always make sure they are as safe as possible.

·         Elementary school and older: Give them more detail about how tragic events like this happen, specific steps they can take to protect themselves and that you’ll always make sure they’re as safe as possible.

·         Teenagers: Ask if they know anyone affected by the shootings. Listen to their thoughts and feelings without telling them how they should or shouldn’t feel.

Once you’ve opened the line of communication, these additional tips will help you keep tabs on how your child is feeling and help them cope.

·         Empower your child to help, whether it’s drawing a picture or writing a letter of support for those affected with younger kids, or becoming involved in a church or community event with older children.

·         Offer concrete reassurance by explaining what you can do to keep them safe and how to prepare for emergencies like active shooter events, if age-appropriate.

·         Lift the mood by drawing attention to positive news, praising good deeds and engaging in a fun activity instead of watching the news.

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