Parents want and will do anything to protect their kids from the bad in the world, but it is not always possible. Here are some tips from experts on how to have the right conversation with them about scary news and help your kids handle it.
1. Find out the real questions your child has
It is well known that children ask a lot of questions. When they hear about scary events in the news, or when people are communication they will overhear something and they are likely to ask for details: Who died? Will that happen to me? Will it hurt? Why would somebody do that? Where were the police? Were they bad people? Where were the parents? Is this a war, etc.? Before trying to answer any of these, first, we need to make sure we heard it correctly and ask the child back ”What do you think? ”. Asking back this question, we will get more time to think about suitable answer and explanation, but we will also figure out what is the real concern of the child.
Kids are usually worried about their own safety, so If they are worried about some terrifying event, we can comfort them by saying ”That happened a long way away” if that is true, ”Everything will be fine”, ”The police came in time when the grown-ups called”, ”We don’t know why it happened, but this is the first time and probably it will never happen again”, etc..
2. Limit screen time to non-news coverage for young children
No matter how far away we may live from the incident, the TV, smartphones and computers, will deliver scary images and videos of terrified people, screaming and running and this will bring the trauma closer to our kids. It is better to limit screen time and explain to them why we are not watching TV. We want them to heart the story from us and we will help them understand better.
3. Keep yourself and your child calm
Children are quite sensitive to their parents’ emotions even in good times, but they are especially sensitive in worrisome events. If they overhear a conversation or hear something on TV, which they inevitably will, and want to know details, we need to keep it simple, to the level of their developmental understanding. We need to be guided by their questions, and provide short and simple answers. If they notice change in our body language, reactions, they may ask us if we are upset or worried. It is very important to be honest, but brief, to let them know that we have emotions too, just as they do and are comfortable in expressing those emotions, and then reassure them that we will be fine.
4. Follow routines even more strictly than usual
The unpredictable is so scary for kids, while the
predictable is especially reassuring for them. It is very important that our kids have a certain regularity in their lives, and also let them know that no matter how scared thy may feel in the moment, they will be okay and the world will carry on. Parents will never stop trying to protect or kids from scary events, but is important to keep learning them that they can handle it, in fact, they need to know things so they won’t be blindsided by the real world. Moreover, by learning about tragedies, like earthquakes, tsunamis, etc., they can develop skills of compassion and empathy, gain perspective on how their bad days rank in the grand scheme of things, and have opportunities to help others.
Parenting isn’t easy, but we learn every day in order to improve our knowledge and become better and more successful in what we do.