How To Talk To Kids About Tragedies In The Media

14 12 2012

In light of today’s tragic events…

Teachers are often put in the difficult position of talking to kids about awful stuff that happens. They see it on the news. They get upset by it. They look to adults for perspective, explanation, and comfort. It’s not fun.

One of the most difficult days of my life was when Columbine occurred. I was working at a radio station, and also helping out with a youth group that happened to meet on the same day that the tragedy happened. I wasn’t an active “air talent” at the time, but our afternoon DJ basically lost it and couldn’t continue talking about it on the air. I stepped in and handled all the news reports through the early evening, then got off work and headed directly to church where a bunch of anxious and upset teens were waiting to be counseled and reassured.

It wasn’t a fun day.

There usually aren’t explanations for the horrible stuff that happens in the world, at least not easy ones. My best advice is very similar to the recommendations in this article: Be honest, both with the kids and with your own feelings. Stick to the facts, and do your best to put down any rumors or misinformation. And, most importantly, let the kids talk. They need to share what they’re feeling and know that someone cares enough to listen. Sometimes there just aren’t any answers, but it means everything to a kid to know there’s someone who will listen to them when they need to ask.

– dEV

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How To Talk To Kids About Tragedies In The Media

Young children, teens and even adults may be disturbed by images and stories of people getting hurt in the media or on TV. Children can become anxious and fearful about the world around them. It is important to keep an eye on your TV guide at the start of each week and be aware of what is scheduled during your children’s viewing time.

Try to watch television with your kids (especially during the News), listen for their questions and answer them honestly. Tragedies affect everyone, both children and adults. Children need to talk about their fears, frustration and disbelief. It is important that we are watchful for these emotions and encourage open discussions.

Children may be worry:

  • that the event could happen to themselves or a loved one;
  • that they could be separated from someone they love or be left alone;
  • about their safety or that of their loved ones.

Depending on their age and level of maturity, children will perceive things differently to adults. Remember with younger children (up to nine years old) to be uncomplicated in your explanations without going in to gory details, especially if the tragedy is extremely unpleasant. Be supportive and reassuring during your discussion. Older children will be able to handle more information.

Discussion Techniques:

  • Be truthful – Children need to understand what is happening around them to feel secure. Provide them with facts about what happened and acknowledge it was a terrible and frightening event. Help them to see that we share their feelings.
  • Encourage any questions – Ensure your child feels as though they can approach you to ask questions as much as they need. Sometimes a child will process a tragic event much later and come back to you again for more discussion. Remind them that questions are welcome.
  • Feelings are normal – Some children may take a while to get over tragic events and that is perfectly normal. Allow them to cry if they need to and show their emotions. Share your feelings about what happened with them. Help your kids to verbalize their feelings with you. Secure them with a warm cuddle and remind them that they are safe. Keep things in perspective and remind them that not all people are harmful towards others.

Unfortunately over the past few years in particular, we have been exposed to numerous mass killings that have been disturbing and heartbreaking for all of us. Images in the media and discussions around the world can be quite alarming for our kids. It is imperative that we recognize these events and explain what has happened.

(Full Story)




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