How to Talk to Children About Traumatic Events
We also recognize that the people in the commonwealth of Kentucky are not only grieving the loss of 19 children and 2 adults in Texas, but also the loss of a sense of security in our own lives, and worry about the safety of the children in the commonwealth. Many may not know the best ways to communicate this tragic news to the children in their lives.
Steps that caregivers can take to have conversations with their children include the following:
(1) Let your child know you are doing your best to keep them safe. Children who have been exposed to violence may view the world as unsafe and will need to hear from their caregivers that they are trying their best to not put them in dangerous situations. Although in truth we can’t guarantee their safety, our children need to hear from us that we are making every effort to protect them as best as we can.
(2) Limit your child’s exposure to the media. In our current social media age, our children will be exposed to multiple competing messages about violence, grieving, and safety that can leave them confused, scared, and anxious. We are our child’s most trusted source of information and have the ability to provide meaningful and factual information.
(3) Make sure your conversation is age-appropriate. Depending on the age of your child your conversation with them might range from a simple statement of facts and reassurances of safety to an in-depth discussion concerning the social issues surrounding mass violence and grief/loss. Create opportunities for discussion that are consistent with their awareness and ability to make sense of the information you are providing to them.
(4) Provide space for your child to share their thoughts and feelings. In our conversations with our children, it is important to balance the desire to explain and reassure with needing to hear them out as they share their fears and thoughts. Listen to your child and encourage them to use their words to discuss their thoughts and feelings.
(5) Know where to get help for your child. While a caregiver's love can provide much needed to our children, situations like these can require additional support from trained professionals. Utilize resources such as kpa.org and nami.org to get your child connected to additional support as they try to make sense of the world around them.
(6) Take care of yourself. Just like the airline instructions about putting on your own mask first, make sure you are taking care of yourself and your own mental health as you are supporting your child. You can’t pour into your child from a cup with a hole in it.
Helping Kids Navigate Scary News Stories
Helping Children with Tragic Events in the News
Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers from the National Association of School Psychologists