How to Discuss Tragedy With Your Children
Oct 03, 2017 03:56PM
By Juli Couture
A mere fourteen months after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, we are devastated yet again by a horrific act of terrorism. This time at an outdoor concert, packed with fans enjoying a warm Las Vegas evening filled with the promise of great live music, dancing and embracing life. Nobody suspected this evening of fun would turn into the deadliest mass shooting in United States History. Unfortunately, it seems tragic events like this are occurring far too often. Though as adults we agonize trying to make some sense of it all, our children struggle even harder trying to understand why these events occur even while they’re still trying to simply navigate the world in which they live in. How do we explain these events to them? How can we lessen the fear and reassure them of their safety and that there is still good in the world?
Dr. Lori Fishman, Clinical
Psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital has put together some helpful tips
and strategies you can use to have this difficult discussion with your
Dr. Fishman states; “as difficult to be as it is, our role as adults is to reassure our children that this event is highly unlikely to occur and that many things are done to ensure their personal safety. This is not to say that parents should act as though nothing has happened, but it is important to present themselves as confident in providing a safe home and that they can manage the anxiety, sadness, outrage, or whatever feelings they hold. Children read their parents' feelings and react.”
As far as how to approach pre-school aged or very young children who know nothing about these events, she suggests; “avoid bringing up the events when they are within listening range. We advise that parents not turn on the TV or radio to find more details if their children are around.”
For those children who are aware of the events, particularly older children, Dr. Fishman recommends; “your answers need not be long responses, leave room for the child to ask more about what you’ve said. This will guide you in knowing what the child is thinking about. Then ask them what they think happened or heard, and what it means for them? Respond to their statements and their concerns. Focus on their current level of safety in their school and home.
"When children ask about the injured? Try saying something like: ‘People who are
injured are taken to hospitals and cared for by trained professionals.’” She said. Lastly, she recommends following up by looking at the positive. “Focus on the
helpers.” She says. “There are lots of people who are trained as rescue
workers, police, health care workers and mental health professionals to support
the families.” She also says if your child shows signs of anxiety, fear or if
you have any other concerns about your child, to always call your pediatrician.
We unfortunately cannot shield our children from the tragedy in our world. However, we can help them try to understand, comfort them while they cope and reassure them that there is still good in the world. We can show them that even in our darkest hour, there is still a bright light that shines. It shines through the helpers, the bands of people who come together and love one another, giving aid and kindness to victims, families and beyond. Maybe through showing our children the good in people, we pave the way for a future generation of helpers. Be good to one another.