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Tips for discussing tragic news events with your kids - KOAM TV 7

Tips for discussing tragic news events with your kids

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Parents picking up their children at Columbia Elementary School in Joplin told us one thing is certain following Friday's tragic events in Connecticut - they are going to hold their kids a little tighter tonight.

But, as parents, how do we start to explain the tragic events to our children or should we even bring it up?

Renee White with Joplin Schools Mental Health Support says how a parent reacts to violent news events can determine how their children will react.  She suggests that parents either wait to see if their child brings up the news story in conversation or ask open ended questions.

"I would always let the child lead the conversation and use their pace as the pace you want to use," says White.  "With this happening in the elementary level probably the younger children are going to think 'this could have been my school.'"

She says it's important parents don't share too much information about the tragedy but validate their feelings and reactions when they do share.

"Let them set the pace and not give too much information and let them wait until the questions are asked," says White.  "There is really no use letting a seven year old know how many fatalities happened, who were the horrific gunmen.  The seven year old just probably just needs to hear about safety in their elementary school."

White also says its vital that parents do not over inflate the probability of something like a school shooting happening to their child directly.  She says it's hard for younger kids to grasp the randomness of such tragedies.

"Cognitively, they are not ready to have that understanding.  They don't have the ability to put that in their brain, in sections, so they see globally then see that everything is a fear - everything is a trap - I could potentially be hurt everywhere I go - and that is the last thing you want to do."

What also suggests parents keep their children from hearing or seeing more than they can handle.

"Minimize the exposure of the repetitive CNN or other news coverage for children that can not process that all as we can as adults."

But while it's an incomprehensible event parents hope they never have to face, White says adults must also work through the tragic events themselves.

"Have adult conversations outside of the preview of children because we as adults need to process how scary and horrific this event was."

For more tips visit Fred Rogers talks about Tragic Events in the News.  The American Psychological Association has also put together tips on helping children manage distress following tragedy.

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