5 Tips On How to Talk To Children About Tragedies

by Migdalia Rivera

With the recent tragedies in Boston and West Texas, parents must find a way to reassure children in an age appropriate manner. Younger children may not understand and need assurance. While older children can become overwhelmed with the constant media coverage.

Children process these things differently.  To help parents respond, Latina On a Mission asked Dr. Phyllis Ohr, Child Psychologist for Press4Kids’ News-O-Matic, the first educational, news app for children 7 to 10 years old. Dr. Ohr is also the Director of the Child and Parent Psychological Services Clinic at Hofstra and the Assistant Director of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program.

Mother and Son Talking | Latina On a Mission

Below are five (5) tips from Dr. Ohr on how parents can address news issues with children and what children can do to feel better:

  1. When the event does not personally affect the child, reassure them that everything is okay with the people they love and that nothing has changed for them.
  2. Be sure to stress to children that if they do have questions to ask parents, teachers as well as friends. Other children having the same feelings may be comforting.
  3. Begin by giving the child a brief synopsis of what happened by using age appropriate language. Ask if there is something they want to know more about or if they need something explained further. If so, stick to pointedly answering their question or clarifying. Do not add on or digress.
  4. Do not assume the news will make children feel a certain way. Ask if they know how they feel, but stress that kids feel all different ways when they hear important news and sometimes do not know how they feel or do not feel anything which is okay. However, if children are affected by it, it is their own feeling. Reassure children that no matter what they are feeling, their feelings are okay.
  5. If they are upset but don’t want to talk, suggest a fun activity for distraction or help them use calming skills like playing, drawing a picture or writing a story. These activities help release any upset feelings and make children feel better.

Let’s talk! Has your child asked questions about the recent tragedies? How did you respond? Please share your story or tips in a comment below!

About the Author

Migdalia Rivera, also known as Ms. Latina in social media, is a single Latina mother of a teen, tween and 2 Australian Shepherds. When not blogging, or chasing after her energetic bunch, she connects influential bloggers with brands and PR agencies via her blogger network, Stiletto Media.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 George B. April 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm

These are great tips! I recently shared News-O-Matic’s article on the Boston tragedy with my son. We had a great discussion about it. I’m glad there is a resource I can use to talk to him about these issues.

2 Alissa Apel April 23, 2013 at 9:53 pm

I talked to our 8 year old about the Sandy Hook shootings. We wanted to talk to him before others at school did. He didn’t seem to have questions. We told him to talk to us or a teacher if he did have questions. Then we talked about where he goes at school when they have different emergency drills.

With the latest bombing the boys know something bad happened. That’s all they know.
Alissa Apel recently posted..WW: The Dog Next Door {Linky}

3 Patricia April 28, 2013 at 8:41 am

These are great tips. Thanks for sharing. It is always tough on kids.

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