Talking with Children and Youth During a Tragedy:
Your role as a parent:
- Offer reassurance and help your child feel secure. When children are exposed to violent or traumatic events - even through the news or media - they need to hear that "scary" things are not likely to happen to them. Let them know that school and home are safe places to be, and that incidents like the September 11 tragedies are rare. Your child may need to be in more physical contact with you or rely on favorite stuffed toys or blankets.
- Be a role model. Children pick up clues from adults, especially when they have difficulty knowing what to do with their own emotions like anger or fear. Showing composure can
provide a great sense of security to a child. Make sure comments or actions at home model how you would like your child to behave. Be especially aware of conversations with other adults in cars, on the phone, or in other places where your child may overhear you.
- Limit exposure to TV and other media. This is especially important for younger children, for whom the violence in the media can be particularly frightening. If you have an older schoolage child, you may want to watch the news together and talk about what you're seeing.
- Acknowledge your child's feelings. Instead of saying, "Don't feel sad," you might say, "It seems like you feel sad. I feel that way, too." Reassure your child that what is happening is
scary and confusing, and validate your child's many feelings.
- If possible, spend more time with your child. Younger children often react to stressful or fearful situations by being more clingy or needy than usual.
- Maintain routines. Trying to maintain normal family routines and schedules can become comforting to a child.
- Increase quiet time. Add quiet time for the family in the evenings or make reading and quiet time before bed longer.
- Watch for changes in your child's behavior. Your child may be more aggressive in school, wake up frequently in the middle of the night, be more clingy at home, or cry more often.
These are all signs that your child is experiencing stress. Your child may need extra reassurance and support from you.
- Monitor your child's activities and play. Your child may begin to act out much of what he is absorbing from other sources.
- If your child seems to be having trouble coping, seek professional help. Ask your pediatrician, school guidance counselor, clergy person, or employee assistance program
(EAP) for names of counselors who specialize in working with young children in your area.
- by Sharon Pearson, Church Publishing
Internet resources that have been vetted for appropriate content and from professional mainline sources:
https://www.buildfaith.org/grieving-with-children/ article for parents on how to grieve with children, includes links to books for children in times of grief and resources for parents
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-emily-c-heath/dealing-with-grief-five-t_b_2303910.html an excellent articles on the 5 things NOT to say and 5 things to say to children about grief and tragedy
https://www.fredrogers.org/parents/special-challenges/tragic-events.php Mr. Rogers lives on with his wise words about frightening things and children
https://www.episcopalrelief.org/uploads/EducationFileModel/174/file/Harvey%20Tips%20for%20Parents.pdf tips for parents to help their children and youth cope in times of tragedy (from Episcopal Relief & Development)
When Someone Dies –http://www.kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/emotion/somedie.html
and Being Afraid a site for children from the KidsHealth arena of The Nemours Foundation Center for Children’s Health Media
Talking with kids about the News – ten tips on how to watch television with your children and talk about the events seen involving violence in the world.
PBS Parents Guide to Talking with Kids about the News – Strategies for Talking, Listening and Caring by learning how to answering children’s challenging questions by seeing
the world through their eyes
Parenting for Tolerance https://www.tolerance.org/topics offers resources and
ideas for parents and teachers to instill a sense of tolerance and justice in children and youth. Many important topics are covered including bullying, gender identity, immigration, diverse abilities, racism and bias