In the wake of the tragedy in Paris, I felt it necessary to talk with my children about what happened. There are some that feel kids should be sheltered from the news and all the negativity that happens in our world. I am not of that mindset. I feel that children live in this world and, therefore, need to know what happens in it. They will hear it at school, from friends, on the radio, or from me. I choose that they hear it from me first.
There are a few things to keep in mind when speaking with children about tragedy and I wanted to share them with you. You can do more harm than good when speaking with kids about scary and sad events. You have to be cognizant of what you are saying and how you say it. Here are tips to get you started.
- Keep it age appropriate. You don’t want to tell a 4 year old the same thing you would tell a 14 year old. Their maturity levels are different and they can understand and handle things differently. Talk to kids on their age level.
- Give the information you want them to have. You don’t have to tell children how many people were killed on 9/11, for example. But, you may want to mention that some people did not survive. There is a difference in the wording and you give them the information you feel they should know.
- Be calm when speaking with kids. Don’t show your emotions if you feel they will scare your child. Don’t get worked up or your kids will.
- Be mindful of what they may hear from others and prepare for it. If you know that your child’s school is going to have a moment of silence for those affected by the tragedy in Paris, tell them ahead of time what that will be about.
- Be prepared to answer questions. Think ahead of time about what your kids may ask and be prepared to answer questions they may ask.
- Be honest. Again, at their age level, but being honest is very important. Don’t lie to kids about the events that you are speaking of. They will find out the truth some day and you don’t want them believing things that are false until then.
- If you don’t want to answer a question, say so. Tell them that you don’t think they need to know that right now or whatever your reason may be.
- Don’t tell other people’s children (friends of your kids) about events. Keep in mind that you may have a different viewpoint when it comes to talking about tragedy with kids than other parents. Don’t assume that it is okay to tell other people’s children about tragedy. Tell the kids to go to their own parents.
- Share your own feelings, if appropriate. Don’t be afraid to tell your kids that you are sad or angry. Sharing emotion is different than showing them. You have to do what you are comfortable with here but it is fine, in my opinion, for your kids to know that you are sad that Paris is going through such a horrible time or that the USA was attacked on 9/11 and it makes you angry.
- Give them a hug. Hug your kids and let them know it is okay to come to you with any questions they may have. Remember that it is better to get information from you than from other kids!