How to talk to children about tragedy

Mother of two, living in Paris told CNN, “As parents, we are lost”. So, how can you tell children about such a tragic world event? How can an adult explain what has happened to a young child, when they don’t understand it themselves?

Talking to children about tragedy

Paediatrician, Dr. Claudia Gold explained, “When we feel ourselves bombarded by images of brutal, ruthless violence and evidence of unbridled hate, the question of how to protect our children is a complex one.”

When such a tragedy strikes, often the initial reaction of the parent is what to say. Gold emphasised that knowing what and how much to share really depends on the age and temperament of the child.

Limit exposure

Tricia Ferrara, counsellor said how if possible, a child younger than five years old does not need such tragedies to be explained, nor need to be exposed to any media coverage. For children of a young age, the best way to reassure them that their world is safe is to keep to their routine.

A child aged between six and 11 can be shown minimal exposure and basic facts can be explained. These lessons were learnt after observing children who witnessed a lot of media coverage during 9/11. Studies found that those who were subject to prolonged media exposure had a higher risk of anxiety.

If you are finding it difficult to explain a tragic event to your child, stick to the basic facts and turn off the television. Communicate with your child, show you are willing to listen and answer any questions they might have.

Reassuring your child

A parent reassuring their child during the time of tragedy is the one of the most important things they can do. Children need to be assured that they are safe and the people close to them are safe. If an adult is showing courage, a child can sense it and the fear can fade away.

It is important for parents to be mindful of their child’s behaviour. If their normal behaviour changes after learning about a tragedy, try to communicate with them. If they seem more angry or upset, talk to them, it may encourage them to express how they are feeling.

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Written by Ellen Hoggard
Content Manager and Digital Editor.

Written by Ellen Hoggard

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