Talking to Your Kids About Tragedy

This was not the blog I had planned to write today, but after the events in Boston yesterday, it seemed appropriate to share what was on my heart. As a runner myself and one who has been involved in many different race events, this terrorist attack cut too close to home. It was too easy to be there in my mind, too easy to picture my family cheering me on across the finish line, too easy to experience the devastating end, just plain too real. But it WAS real and the many runners, families, supporters, reporters and first responders will go on living very different lives after yesterday. So how do those of us who weren’t directly affected by a personal loss deal with the pain of this tragedy, and often more importantly, how do we help our kids deal with it?

I found many different sources relating to this topic, but one in particular that I found most helpful was from World Vision. These tips were actually written a couple of years ago in response to the images seen of the destruction from the  earthquake and tsunami in Japan. However, they can be used to guide you through talking to your kids about yesterday’s bombings at the Boston marathon or any other tragic event they witness.

Talking to kids about tragedy

Talking to children about tragedy is a job most parents would love to avoid. If only our children did not need to hear about things like this past week’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But of course, they do hear. And they are full of questions: Could this happen to me? What’s going to happen to the children? Can I do anything to help the children I see on TV?

World Vision US, a Christian humanitarian relief organization with staff on the ground in Japan now and in numerous other relief responses each year, suggests eight ways to make a tough job a little bit easier.

1. Start by listening.

Find out what your child already knows. You can then respond in an age-appropriate way. The aim is not to worry them with the devastating details, but to protect them from misinformation they may have heard from friends or disturbing images they may have seen on television.

2. Provide clear, simple answers.

Limit your answer to the question asked and use simple language.

3. If you don’t know the answer, admit it.

If your children ask questions that you can’t answer, tell them so, and then do some research to try and help them sort it out. If they ask “Why did this have to happen?” don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” If you are part of a faith community, the reassurance offered there can be invaluable in helping your child sort through the truth that awful things happen.

4. Follow media reports or online updates privately.

Young children in particular are easily traumatized, and seeing or hearing about the horrifying details of the quake may be more than they can cope with. Adults, too, should ensure they are dealing with their own emotions by talking to others, so they can continue to respond well to their children’s needs.

5. Concentrate on making them feel safe.

When tragedies occur, children wonder if the same event could happen in their hometown. If it was an act of nature that could not be repeated in your area, tell children that. Placing themselves in the situations of victims is not all bad—it is a sign of empathy, an essential life skill, but watch for signs of excessive worrying.

6. Give children creative outlets.

Some children may not be prepared to speak about what they have heard, but may find drawing or other creative activities helpful to deal with their emotions and stress. Their drawings can be helpful starting points for conversation.

7. Model involvement and compassion.

Tell your child that, as a family, you will be helping the people in Japan by giving a donation to a reputable charity such as World Vision.

8. Give your child a chance to be involved.

Being involved in the solution will help relieve some of their anxiety. Invite them to contribute to the family’s gift by giving something out of their piggy bank.

We may not be able to personally understand the pain that those who were there are facing, but we know One who does. From the Key To Conceive Family, we are praying for Boston and those affected by the senseless tragedy. Jesus said, “Here on the earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, The Key To Conceive Family, Summer 2012because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The Key ToConceive family, Tri Indy 2012.

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