How to Talk With Your Kids About Tragedy

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By: Dr. Shaun Kemmerly, Chief Medical Officer of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital and Sharon Wesberry, Manager of Child Life Services

Today’s tragic event in Baton Rouge has left us all with many questions. But for parents, it can open up a new conversation with your kids who may have trouble understanding exactly what’s going on.

We’ve pulled together a few tips from our physicians and child life specialists to help you talk with your children about violence or sad events in the news.

  1. Talk to your child to understand what they know. Ask them questions Then listen to see how much they have heard or what they think happened. This can help you alleviate fears or help correct any misunderstood information.
  2. Use short, easy words they can understand. Instead of “shooting,” “tragedy,” etc., use age appropriate words like “hurt,” “bad,” or other short words to explain what happened.
  3. Validate their feelings and tell them you know they are scared. Their feelings are important and reassuring them that you are there to talk can help them feel safer and more in control.
  4. Assure them they are safe, loved and offer reassurance as often as they ask or need.
  5. Avoid exposure to the news or other media that may show scary pictures or talk about the events. When you discuss with your spouse or other adults, make sure children are out of listening range. Talk with older children about what they may be exposed to on social media. Its best for children to learn of violent events from their parent and not another child or media coverage
  6. Continue your normal routines. It’s best to restore life as best as possible so that kids feel that life is returning to normal.
  7. If it’s something your children are accustomed to, pray together as a family.

If your child demonstrates worrisome behavior such as sleep disturbance, change in appetite, mood changes, etc., please talk with your health care provider about your concerns.

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