The world is obviously a different place than it was when parents of young children were growing up. In our society today, children hear about tragedies including natural disasters, mass shootings in school and violence throughout the world and sometimes even in their own community. It seems we hear about these stories on a daily basis. And with the advent of 24-hour news and access to social media, we often feel surrounded with bad news.
This can be overwhelming for us as adults so helping children during these difficult times is vital.
Counselors at Fernside Grief Center, an affiliate of Hospice of Cincinnati, have worked with grieving children for over 32 years and they have helped countless children and families through their own very personal crisis after a family member dies. And even though a child may not know anyone involved in a large-scale tragedy in their community, they can still be affected by it.
Talk to your child
Honor and support your child by talking to them about these difficult events. Know you can’t “fix” it for them and instead allow them to express their thoughts and feelings. Validate and reassure them that their feelings are normal and that a lot of people are feeling the same. Explain in an age-appropriate way what happened. Encourage communication and be prepared and open to their questions. Let their questions guide you to how much detail to share. Providing information can help a child make sense of what has happened.
Help your child express their thoughts and feelings
Each individual will react in their own way. Some will express their feelings more openly while others might be quieter. There is no right or wrong reaction. Your child may experience a wide range of feelings depending on the impact the event has had on them. Expressing your own feelings can let your child know that it’s okay for them to express theirs. Encourage your child’s expression through a variety of mediums- art, journaling, exercise and music are all creative ways to express worries, fears and other feelings.
Take care of yourself
Don’t forget or neglect your own emotional health. Seek additional support for yourself if you begin to feel overly-stressed. If you need a reason to take care of yourself, know that a healthy parent will be in a better state of mind to support the emotional needs of their children.
Find healthy ways to move beyond the tragedy
Take breaks from the news. It’s important to limit the amount of exposure your child has to hearing the same information over and over. Maintaining their normal routine is important. Find ways to do something positive- get involved in a cause you care about or help others directly affected by the event. Taking action can help children see the good in people and how people can work through a tragic event together.