As a parent and like most parents I have tried to avoid this topic with my children. Within the past months, it has been harder and harder. Once we and the media get past one event another happens. My children have been asking questions starting from Charleston, SC. How do we handle these situations as parents? It is hard for children to avoid images on TV despite efforts to hide and protect our children from seeing the images. Depending the age of the child, candid conversations are being had at school while guided by teachers and/or students. What do a parent do?
Listen and Talk– I mean listen first. Ask your child what he or she already know about the incident? Ask child questions such as what are your thoughts? How do you feel about what happened? Do you know why? By listening first, it gives the opportunity to know what your child already knows and how much information is needed to provide to them. Sometimes, this will be the time to clear up any untruths they may have heard or talk about feelings. When talking to a child about tragedy events it is important to tell them information that is age appropriately. For a four year old, allowing the child to watch the media reports or informing them 188 people and kids died is not age appropriate.
Assurance of Safety– Children want to know they are safe. As parents this is our job to provide that assurance no matter how unassured we may feel. Continue to provide normal routine and live life. Do things together as a family such as movies, dinner, or sport event. This will help children feel they are safe.
Manage Media and information Resource– During a tragedy event is it all over the TV. During this time, manage what is on the T.V. When talking on the phone or with spouse do not discussed or debate the tragedy in front of the kids. Limit the TV stations to cartoons channels and movies.
Take care of self– I put this last but it should be first. As parents, process the events that occurred. It is okay to express emotions and have feelings of fear, anxiousness, anger, and uncertainties. These are all normal feelings the first couple days of the incident. Take steps in caring for self and self-emotions. This means limit and manage our own access on social media and watching news for several hours a day. Limit watching the news for 10 minutes two times day or watch the local news instead of the world news.