We are faced once again with a tragedy. The terrorist attack in Manchester, England at a pop concert has us once again reeling. It’s normal to feel helpless and not know how to address this news with your children. I’ve attached a link to a CNN article about talking to children about tragic events.
Briefly, limit your child’s exposure to news and social media. Particularly younger children can be confused when video clips are played over and over again and believe that the event is occurring over and over again as well.
Reassure your child that they are safe. This may feel difficult to do, since we adults may not feel very safe, but this is important. You can tell your child that all the adults (from parents to the government) are doing everything they can to keep everyone safe. And while events like this are tragic and frightening, they are in fact very rare.
Only give them as much information as they’re asking for and consider where they are developmentally when answering their questions. Some children may have lots of question and some may have none at all.
It’s ok to tell them that what happened has scared or worried you. You are role modeling real and legitimate emotions. But make sure that you are showing that you are managing those emotions. If you feel overwhelmed, step away or change the subject. If you’re emotions are too much, a child may feel responsible or that they have to fix things and that creates undue stress for a child.
Change the focus. Point out the acts of kindness and courage around these types of events. As Mr. Fred Rogers said “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
There’s nothing easy about these kinds of world events. Take your cue from your child as to what they need from you. And if you have any concerns about your child or questions about what to say or do, please don’t hesitate to call or email me. I’m here to help.