Sadly, the world we live in today is filled with attacks by terrorists, mass tragedies, and much violence. We feel bombarded by the images we see each day and are faced with the issue of protecting our children during these trying times. As parents, we wonder what to tell our kids and how to help them cope with these tragic events. By considering the ages of your children and how they are reacting to the situations, you can effectively communicate with them and respond to their needs during times of crisis.
Children ages five and younger don’t need to hear what has happened nor be exposed to any of the media coverage. Keeping their routine the same is the best way for younger children to be reassured they are safe. As children get older, ages 6 – 12, it is best to stick to the simple facts and not get into details that can be disturbing. It is also beneficial to limit their exposure to media coverage. Violence can have lasting effects on children by increasing their anxiety, even if it only comes from the media. By reassuring your children that everything is being done to keep them safe, you help to decrease their anxiety as well.
For most teenagers, it is likely that they have heard about the tragedy through social media and news coverage. It is good to start talking with them about what they know and the concerns they may have. Although teens may struggle to discuss this, it is important for them to be comfortable voicing their thoughts with their parents. It is very common for teens to feel helpless after tragedies occur. Guiding them to be helpful and involved in their own communities can minimize their feeling of helplessness while allowing them to feel connected.
Children of all ages benefit from parents and adults who mirror how to cope effectively. Children learn how to cope better when they feel they understand what has happened and when they know how they can protect themselves, family, and friends. Make it clear that you understand their feelings and allow them to express their feelings. This will help them learn how to develop coping skills. Reassure your children that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe and keep communication lines open in your family. Feelings of anxiety, sadness, confusion, and fear are all normal reactions. If you are concerned by your child’s overly intense reactions that have lasted longer than a few weeks, contact your pediatrician or a mental health care professional.
Lori Atkinson, Operations Assistant for The Kim Foundation
Lori Atkinson joined The Kim Foundation in May 2015 as an Operations Assistant. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from UNL in Middle Level Education. She was an 8th grade English teacher in the Omaha Public Schools for ten years and started a small non-profit in her husband’s memory in 2010. Lori assists with many of the day-to-day tasks for The Kim Foundation which includes scheduling presentations in the community, coordinating booths at conferences, attending mental health trainings, researching mental illness/suicide, and working community events. Lori is the proud mom of three children and is actively involved in her church.