Talking with your children about tragic events
April 29, 2013
by Jenni Sebora

It seems that there has been an array of tragic events recently throughout our nation and world. When various devastating events occur around the same time, we are flooded with negative images and news. This can bring on feelings of gloom, despair, and a negative outlook and view on our society. It is amazing what a few people’s actions can do to a nation.

These incidents of tragedy and violence are not easy for us, as adults, to understand and comprehend, much less our children.

Younger children, especially, can have a hard time distinguishing what is real from what is not.

When an event is repeated and replayed over and over, children can feel that the tragedy is happening again and again. What will happen to my mom and dad? Will I be safe?

How should we talk to our children about these tragedies? Should we involve them in any discussion at all?

Chances are that even if a child is not exposed to media coverage, he or she has overheard conversations about the event. This can lead to inaccurate or misguided information and fears.

My 13-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son have been watching the news about the Boston tragedy. Both my husband and I talk with them about it, because we feel creating this open dialogue also helps create a more supportive environment of their feelings about such events.

Our 9-year-old has had very limited media access to the events. She knows, to a point, what has happened, but we have kept details very limited. When she has asked a question, we have answered them honestly, but carefully. We don’t want her to be showered in fear. She is not.

We cannot protect our children from exposure to information about community violence or natural disasters, but we can help guide that information so it is honest, but appropriate for their age and developmental level.

We should always have an open ear. Listen and answer their questions and concerns. Acknowledge their feelings, and let them know that they are safe and loved. Children need these affirmations.

Scholastic offers news information online, as well as in other reading material that is very appropriately condensed for our children to understand. I recently downloaded and printed an article regarding the Boston marathon tragedy and read it with my two daughters, as well as some of my students.

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