How should you discuss tragedies with your child?

Tragedies, such as devastating terrorist attacks or natural disasters, are difficult to digest, especially for children. These horrific events bring out an assortment of feelings and questions in children that need to be addressed. Depending on the child’s age, relationship with the victim(s) and the extent of the tragedy, your child will react accordingly and need your emotional support. Talking about the incident, instead of glossing it over, will allow your child to overcome his anxieties and feel safe once again.

Your child can feel your fears and apprehensions so it’s prudent to remain calm and composed, while going about your daily routines. It’s essential that your child sense that his life is orderly and in control, and not chaotic like the tragic event that occurred. Avoiding the subject won’t help your child feel better. Encourage your child to express his feelings about the tragedy and talk about what is bothering him. It helps to voice your feelings about the event, as well. Sometimes the details of tragedies can become exaggerated, causing children to have senseless fears. News reports may reveal inaccurate information, overwhelming your child. Listen to your child, give him the correct information about what happened and reassure him of your family’s safety.

Children crave protection and love. Your child wants to feel shielded from the act of violence that just occurred. Express your love for your child and spend quality time together. Your presence alone is comforting in times of disaster. Many families engage in prayer or meditation together or just bask in each other’s company. There is no one correct course of action in discussing tragedies with children; as long as you display love, warmth and security, your child will feel the emotional strength to transcend the devastating event.

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