8 Tips for Talking to Kids about Tragic News Events

Note from the editor, June 13, 2016: Our hearts go out to the Orlando community after suffering the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. These parenting tips, though originally written after the Paris attacks, can offer guidance in helping children process any tragic and traumatic news.

Our thoughts are with the people of Paris in the aftermath of Friday’s attacks. Not only is terrorism spreading across the world, it’s also bleeding into parenting along with today’s escalating tragic events.

No matter how hard we try to shield our children, news of the horrors of humanity can and will reach them . . . one way or another. When it does, how are we supposed to respond? How do parents explain sudden, violent, random, mass murder to children without shattering their innocence and obliterating their sense of safety and stability?

8 Tips for Talking to Kids about Tragic News Events

Tuned In Parents - 8 Tips for Talking to Kids about Tragic Events

  1. Whenever possible, keep young children away from the news and its repetitive reporting of violence and violent images.
  2. When the kids learn of tragic news — usually ubiquitous, high-profile stories are difficult to avoid — first find out what they’ve heard. That way, you can correct any misinformation.
  3. With young children, keep your explanations brief and simplified. They think in terms of black and white, good and bad, literal and not figurative (grey areas of morality are lost on them).
  4. Share your feelings about the tragic event(s) and encourage the kids to do the same.
  5. Reassure the kids that they are safe.
  6. Encourage the kids to join you in an effort to aid the victims of the tragic event(s). This can include sending money to a verified relief fund; drawing pictures and writing letters (this is an excellent way for the kids to also cope with their feelings about the event) to send with food, clothing, and/or money; etc.
  7. Young children often have lingering feelings of fear and empathy for the victims of tragedies. It’s helpful to expect this, validate their feelings, and continue to help them process these feelings (repeating any of these steps as you see fit).
  8. Tap into the power of gratitude! Encourage the kids to sincerely consider what they are grateful for. Gratitude unlocks a positive mindset that aids in coping with difficult feelings and experiences.

If you like to excavate the positive out of every situation, no matter how dark, perhaps we refuse to allow terrorism to instill fear in us and our children; and, instead, use it to develop a greater sense of empathy and compassion in our kids. Imagine the long-term impact on the world generations of children raised with this response could have, as opposed to fear and reactive violence? Maybe that’s the change we all need.

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” – Albert Schweitzer

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”
– Albert Schweitzer

About Elle C. Mayberry

Elle C. Mayberry is a mom and author, who just released a new children's book with her young daughter. With a passion for parenting and degrees in psychology and "make it workology," she created Tuned In Parents (TiP).

7 comments on “8 Tips for Talking to Kids about Tragic News Events

  1. I love this list so much. Number 6…YES. I think it is so important to show them in times of trouble that we can help. This is such a great list. Thank you for sharing it at #mommymeetupmondays.

  2. Such great tips! It can be hard to even think about talking about tragedies with children, but it must be done.

    Thank you for sharing with us at #mommymeetupmondays!

  3. Though the news is saturated with sadness, it saddens me that the massacre in Nigeria perpetrated by Boko Haram is barely being mentioned. Thousands of men, women, and children killed — THOUSANDS — and the world doesn’t seem to care because, well, let’s face it, it’s black Africa. We mourn for Paris AND Nigeria. #blacklivesmatter

  4. Pingback: Dear mommas … | kathleenbduncan

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