Stock photo

How to talk with your children after a tragedy

February 16, 2018 - 11:45 am

News coverage of a school shooting or a terrorist attack can be upsetting for children and young teens, and having a conversation with them about the incident can make you feel at a lost for words. Here are a few tips we found for how to talk with your children after a violent event.

Find out what they already know

You children may have heard some news related to the incident from school, friends, or even social media, so the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents first find out what their children knows about the event and to answer questions they may have.

Tell the truth

Having a direct, truthful conversation with your children about what happened is best, without going into too much detail. You can then provide answers as well as comfort and reassurance that they are safe.

Turn off or restrict the news

Repeatedly watching images of the incident and the heartbreaking interviews with survivors over the course of several hours and days after the incident can be upsetting and cause one to feel anxious. Turn off the TV, radio, and computers so your family can take a break and talk about how they’re feeling.

Stay active and stick to a regular schedule

One of the best things to do when stressed is to stay active and keep to a schedule. This is important for moving forward after a tragic event and to gaining back some sense of normal.

What to look for if children are not coping

In the days and weeks after a traumatic event, children may show signs that they are still struggling to cope. The American Academy of Pediatrics says to look out for:

  • Sleep problems such as nightmares, trouble falling asleep or waking up.
  • Physical complaints such as headaches, feeling tired, change in appetite.
  • Changes in behavior such as acting more immature, becoming less patient and more demanding.
  • Emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, or fear.

They also suggested that if you feel that your child may need addition support, to reach out to their physician or a mental health professional.