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Talking to Children about Tragedy
When tragedy occurs, it is important for parents to talk to their kids about what happened. This gives children the chance to express their feelings and their understanding of what happened. For many parents, this can be a difficult task. There are some guidelines for parents when talking to their child about a tragedy:
Adapt your conversation to your child’s age and level of understanding. The most important thing to keep in mind when talking to your child about a tragedy is the age and development of your child. Some children have more intense reactions to situations. This might determine the explanation or the amount of detail you give.
Encourage expression of feelings. Ask children to share their thoughts and feelings. Help young children express feelings through play, drawing or telling a story. Tell them it is alright to feel scared, angry, or confused. It is important not to dismiss your child’s feelings. Discuss how to think about tragedies and ways to be empathic for people affected by tragedy.
Remain calm. Generally children look to adults in times of tragedy and may mimic or pick up on the emotions of adults around. Your child will look to you to see how you react to the situation. Take time to get control over your own emotions before you talk to your child. This video clip from Mister Rogers may give parents some helpful ideas. http://www.fredrogers.org/frc/news/rare-video-mister-rogers-talks-children-adults-about-violence
Limit media exposure. Exposure to media coverage of the event should be limited especially for young children. Avoid constant and harsh exposure to images of violence or disaster through television or other media. Repeated exposure to images of violence can lead to trauma, anxiety or unhealthy responses. Be available to discuss what your children see and help them make sense of disturbing images.
You don’t need to give a reason. Many times youth may ask why an event happened, and adults may feel obligated to answer. Many times there is no known reason. Be careful not to blame a cultural, racial, ethnic, religious or another group. Teach children that alternatives to violence are available and discuss peaceful methods of action.
Reassure children about their safety. Explain what you, as a parent, and others will do to provide security. However, do not ignore the terror associated with events. Acknowledge children’s concerns for others.
Engage children in activities that relieve stress. Suggestions might include walking or other types of exercise, listening to music or engaging in spiritual activities.
Overall it is important for parents to talk to their child when tragedy strikes, even if the task is difficult. It is important for your child to feel that they are supported and safe, especially in a difficult time.
For more guidance on talking with your children, contact Renee Koenig, Family Living Educator, University of Wisconsin-Extension, Kewaunee County firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the most serious problems for children may start at home. Download a free copy of the “Help Yourself to a Healthy Home“ publication so that you access additional information on such topics as: indoor air quality, asthma & allergies, mold & moisture, carbon monoxide, lead, drinking water, hazardous household products, pesticides and home safety.
Today’s home is loaded with toxic and polluting substances. The cost of these commercial, chemcial based products can be high-long term health concerns for the family, and environmental pollution caused by their manufacture and disposal. There are many inexpensive and easy to use alternatives which can safely be used in place of commercial household products. Environmentally safe products include: white vinegar, baking soda, soap, lemon, borax, washing soda, and cornstarch.
You may also want to visit the following sites for additional green cleaning information: