Don’t we all.
Tragedies are incomprehensible at any age. They impact each of us differently. And with the innocence of children, it is difficult to know exactly what is running through their minds. Depending on the age and personality, a child may be fearful—of being away from his parents, for his own safety or of death.
When events like this occur, unfortunately, we are not only trying to process it ourselves, but also trying to understand it through our child’s eyes. Here are 10 tips for helping children cope with tragedy:
- Limit TV and radio. Position it so you are their main source of information. It’s best for kids under the age of 5 not to watch or listen to media coverage. For 5- to 11-year-olds, brief snippets are okay.
- Be aware. Step back and look at how you are responding. Ask them what their friends have told them and what their understanding is of the situation.
- Prepare yourself. Know what is going on and what you want to say.
- Be honest. Explain things and answer questions without going into too much detail. If there isn’t an answer, say you don’t know. Choose words that comfort.
- Talk about safety. Point out the safety that surrounds us, such as police and fire exits. Tell them you will do everything in your power to protect them.
- Be patient. Asking questions is a child’s way of trying to understand the world, so if the answer doesn’t make sense (such as why someone sets out to hurt another person), they may ask it over and over again.
- Put it in perspective. Kids go to school in every city in every country every day. This is one senseless act.
- Be together. Provide time to have dinner as a family or go for a walk.
- Keep communication lines open. Remind children that these are acts of hopeless people who don’t feel like they can get help. Tell your children that, no matter what, you love for them and they can always talk to you about anything.
- It’s okay to worry. It’s reasonable to have hesitancy about dropping your kids off at school in the wake of a senseless school tragedy. We care, so we worry.
Determine how best to comfort your children based on their maturity level, not their age. And nothing quite warms the soul like a bear hug between you and your child. So give one, get one… in this case, it’s just what the doctor ordered.