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
- Whenever possible, keep young children away from the news and its repetitive reporting of violence and violent images.
- 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.
- 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).
- Share your feelings about the tragic event(s) and encourage the kids to do the same.
- Reassure the kids that they are safe.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.