Our thoughts turn to those affected by the tragedies in Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School and Oregon's Clackamas shopping center. After hearing of these events, no doubt all of us just want to go home and give our children and loved ones a hug. But how do you explain to your children what they are seeing on the news channels covering these horrific acts, especially school aged children? Some articles have been published to help you decide what to tell your children, if you should tell them at all.
Children younger than 7
Shield them from this. They do not need to know about it.
They need to know that they are safe, and they will look to you for cues. If you are sobbing uncontrollably, overly angry or unable to express your feelings, it might affect how they process the tragedy. But if you are expressing appropriate emotion - like sadness, concern and empathy - they are going to see that it is okay to be worried about this.
You want them to talk about it. You want to ask, "How do you feel about this?" And then it is important to support their feelings. If your child says, "I'm really scared," the worst thing you can do is say, "There is no need to be scared." Instead, tell them, "We are going ot keep you safe, and they got the bad guy."
Children older than 12
With teenagers you really want to engage them. Ask them why they think this happened? And do they think anything could have prevented this? You can have a real conversation out of that. You might also be able to channel them to a community project, some act of charity so that they believe they are taking positive action.
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If you are struggling with the right thing to say, these tips from Dr. Paul Coleman, may help provide some solace. Coleman is a psychologist and author of How to Say It to Your Child When Bad Things Happen and has extensive experience specializing in anxiety disorders and marriage and family concerns.
Be a soothing example.
If you are personally traumatized in any way by the events in Newton, do your best to model calm. "Kids pay close attention to their parent's mood, so you should show this is all temporary," says Dr. Coleman. If you and your family are all safe and sound, "you can convey, yes, it's stressful, but eventually things will get back to normal." Emphasize the things that are already back to normal or that stayed the same throughout, like their family or favorite toys.
Ask questions before explaining.
"Don't rush in with an explanation without first trying to understand what your kids are worried about," says Dr. Coleman. "Don't be too quick to tell them not to worry about it. Explore it a little." Once you know their specific concerns - are they worried about something similar happening to them or you? - you can address them specifically and then reassure them.
Don't label feelings as wrong
Let them know that their feelings make sense, and that it's okay to feel whatever they're feeling. Never make them feel bad about being scared or worried.
Use your judgement about watching the news
"You have to know your child," says Dr. Coleman. "If they are young and impressionable, you might want to shield them. If you child is older, it can be a teaching moment."
Wait until they're older
Until around age 7, Dr. Coleman suggests only addressing the tough stuff if kids bring it up first. "They might see it on TV or hear about it at school (or heaven forbid even witness it), and then you have to deal with it. But younger children might not be able to handle it well," says Dr. Coleman.
Keep it black and white
Yes, the world can be a cruel place, but little kids, well, can't handle the truth. "Younger kids need to be reassured that this isn't happening to them and won't happen to them," says Dr. Coleman. Parents may feel like they're lying, since no one can ever be 100% sure of what the future holds, but probability estimates re not something small kids can grasp, and won't comfort them.
For the full article click HERE.