Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How To Talk To Your Children About Tragedy and Tragic Events

I can still hear it, the sound of my phone alerting me of a incoming text message. I remember exactly what is said, "Boston explosions :/ people's legs blown off" that was the message I received from my significant other informing me of yesterday's bombings that occurred shortly after 4 pm EST during the Boston Marathon. I was very confused by the text I had just woken up from a nap and didn't know what to make of it. So I did what most people would have done I searched the Internet for more information. And turned the news on. 

Flipping through the local news channels, nothing. It was too soon, I found an article online explaining what happened, 2 bombs had gone off shortly after 4 pm EST during the Boston Marathon, killing 2 people and injuring at least 23 people. That was yesterday afternoon, since then the death toll had risen to 3 and left 145 injured including at least 12 in critical condition. 

Immediately I thought about my daughter, she's only 23 months thank god she is too little to understand. She won't be asking any questions, she won't want to know why this happened, she won't tell me she's scared, she won't have nightmares. I can take comfort in knowing that I don't have to explain the evils of the world we live in just yet. 

But what if she was older, what if she did understand and wanted answers? What if she felt those same emotions that the rest of the world is feeling right now, sadness, fear, confusion, what would I have said to her? I'm not a psychologist, or a doctor, a teacher or anything else, just another stay at home mother who has lived through another tragic event in history so what could I say to my child after this? I thought long and hard about this all night yesterday and even early this morning. This is what I came up with after doing a little research online and adding in knowledge I gained from my own experiences with tragic events.

1.) Try to keep the conversations short. Giving too much information or including too many details in the discussion may leave your children feeling frightened or insecure, by keeping the discussion short you are able to address the situation but also keep your child from panicking. Make sure you reassure them that they are safe. If my daughter would have asked what happened I probably would have said something like, "Some bad guys hurt a lot of people yesterday, but a lot of good people like doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, even the president came to help them. The good people are going to make them all better, and they are also going to protect us and keep us safe."

2.) Make your child feel comfortable and safe by using plenty of nonverbal reassurance. Showing your child lots of love by hugging them and kissing them, even just cuddling whether it's before bed or while playing or watching TV together, will put them at ease and make them feel secure and safe. As a child after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake my mother used to let me cuddle with her after dinner, I would tell her before bed I was scared and I remember she laid in my bed with me and held me for awhile, it always put me at ease and made me feel safer.

3.) If possible try to avoid watching News Broadcasts on TV or listening to it on the radio in front of small children. As a kid the one thing that scared me the most after tragic events was news broadcasts, they tend to say things and show things that may scare a child like, blood, injuries, talk about death and have a tendency to use words that may frighten a child like terrorists, bombs, guns, shootings, etc. The images and language may be tough for a child to see and hear. As a kid I remember growing up always watching news broadcasts with my parents I remember the bombings in Oklahoma City from 1994. It was terrifying to see the explosion and all of the wreckage after it occurred, I had nightmares of it as a kid, I wished my parents would have watched it when I wasn't around.

4.) Remember your kids may want to talk about it again at another time, so be prepared to have the discussion again.  Chances are your kids may hear you discuss it with others, or hear about it at school or daycare, be prepared to answer their questions as best as you can without making them feel frightened. Try using words they understand and words you comfortable using, this may or may not be the time to discuss death with your child.

5.) Try your best not to show your own fears and anxieties about the situation. Kids feed off of their parents' energy so if they sense you are scared they probably will be too. You want to make your children feel secure, I'm not saying to lie to them or hide your feelings but let them know you are upset about what some bad people did, but assure them that lots of good people are working hard to fix it and keep everyone safe, and/or make things better. 

6.) Try to get things back to normal as best you can. Of course you may still be upset and hurting but your children may not understand and the best way you can try to help yourself and your children move on is to resume normal activities. By resuming normal activities it may take not only your mind off of the situation but also theirs too, it will help them feel more secure and possibly help curb anxieties they may feel.

Obviously I'm not an expert on this particular topic but I did do some research before I wrote this post, and I spoke to other moms, and used my knowledge from my own experiences to help come up with these tips. If you or your child is still having trouble coping don't be afraid to seek the help of a professional, they are there to help you and your family members get through these sorts of situations. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to everyone who has experienced sadness, grief, and anger from this tragic event. Good luck to everyone and remember to pray for everyone in Boston. #PrayForBoston

Photo Credit: Washington Post