In the digital age, the news is everywhere. It is almost impossible to control or shield information on what is happening worldwide. Children have become exposed to tragic news through friends, adult conversations, or social media.
When a tragedy occurs, children often have questions that many parents try to avoid. Certain events could affect your child’s mental health. But parents should be prepared to talk to their children about complex topics.
Here are some tips on discussing sad world events with your child.
Find Out What They Know
Beginning the conversation may be relatively easy for some children, while it may be uncomfortable for others. If you initiate the conversation, a good starting point is to ask your child what they know and how they feel. But first, choose a time and place when you can bring it up naturally. For instance, during a family meal, your child is more likely to feel comfortable.
Avoid bringing up the conversation before bedtime. With younger kids, stories, drawings, and other activities may help kick start the conversation. You can acknowledge their feelings by showing that you are listening by giving them your full attention.
Reassure Their Feelings and Safety
Although every child responds to sad news differently, most may experience fear and insecurity. Use simple language that a child can easily understand as you reassure them of their safety. Children have a right to know what is happening around them, and parents are responsible for keeping them safe. Be sensitive to their level of anxiety and use age-appropriate language.
When tragedy occurs, think of how to reassure the child if they hear about the sad news. Ensure your child knows they are safe and nothing wrong will happen to them. Reassurance is essential to calm them down, knowing they are protected against harm. Children have emotions, and it is okay for them to express themselves. Let them know they can talk to you about anything.
Avoid Graphic Details
It is good to share information with children but avoid sharing graphic content. Children want to see what is going on for them to understand, and parents need to show them contents that are not sensitive. They should keep young children from repetitive, sensitive sounds and images that may appear on television or on the Internet. Consider recording news ahead to allow you to preview and evaluate the content before sitting down with them to watch. As you continue watching, you can pause and discuss if need be. You need to be constantly aware of any events and take steps in advance to talk to the children about what they might see or hear.
Teaching young children about past events can be tricky but vital. In addition to allowing them to view less sensitive news coverage of present events, you can lean on children’s books to help introduce your child to tragic events of the past. For example, they can read children’s books about 9/11 to help them understand the tragedy of that day.
Spread Compassion, Not Stigma
Even if the sad event occurs in a distant country, it can fuel discrimination on your doorstep. Whether against a people or country, sad events can often bring discrimination and prejudice. When talking to your child, avoid discriminatory phrases. Instead, use it as a chance to encourage compassion.
When tragedies occur, children often wonder if the same event could occur in their hometown. Placing themselves as victims is not bad; it is a sign of empathy. Use this as a learning opportunity to teach them this vital life skill while watching out for excessive worrying.
News on sad events often continues for some time. Therefore, you should continue checking in with your child to know how they cope. Keep a keen eye on your child if you notice any changes in behavior and how they feel.
Your child may be feeling worried and anxious about the sad event. When anxious or worried, most children experience nightmares or have difficulties sleeping. These and other signs such as headaches and stomach aches show signs of distress. Younger children often become clingier, while older ones show intense anger or grief. You may require the assistance of a specialist if these reactions continue for an extended time.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell how a child reacts to unfortunate events. They may be having significant problems coping with the tragic news. Don’t wait for symptoms; start the discussion early and keep the conversation going.
Sometimes you cannot control how your kids receive information. If they have heard the sad news, ensure you are there to provide the answers and comfort that they are seeking.