How to speak with your children about tragedy

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When disasters like the Orlando attack hit, it’s a natural instinct for parents to want to shelter their kids from the news.

But the reality is that kids will eventually hear about the crisis on TV, online, or from friends.

Dr. Erin Leonard says you can’t overload them with information they aren’t ready to handle. If they see too much violence and they aren’t ready for it, they can become desensitized.

This is why it’s a good thing to start with the basics. But you shouldn’t be the one to initiate the conversation. Children have their own defense system, which prevents psychological damage.

“The nice thing about kids is they really will only ask questions they are psychologically prepared to hear, which is a great thing!” Leonard said. “It helps parents out quite a bit, so when you let them ask questions, when you let them guide the discussion, that way you are not providing them with information they are just not equipped to process or handle at the age that they’re at.”

Once the discussion starts, it’s good to let them know it’s okay to feel how they’re feeling and start to explain the basics of a situation. They’ll ask follow up questions if they’re ready and willing to handle it.

“After you validate and empathize with the child’s feelings, then it’s really important to reassure them.” Leonard said. “So remind them that there are many people out there working to keep them safe from the FBI to the local police force to the security at the mall. There are many people out there, many layers of protection.”

While you can’t protect them from everything being said at school, you can let them know that if they hear anything that scares or confuse them, you can talk about it as a family at home.

 

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