10 Tips for Discussing Tragedy with Children
As parents, it is in our nature to shield and protect our children from physical and emotional trauma. However, it is an unfortunate reality that they are exposed to tragedy such as loss, heart break, terror, and natural disasters.
Kiddie Academy early childhood educational experts share tips for discussing tragedy with your child.
1. Create a comfortable environment for conversation and limit distractions.
2. Listen. Your child’s questions and/or concerns can often be your trigger to having this discussion. Get a feel for what your child has seen or heard keep the conversation age appropriate.
3. Labeling Feelings. Younger children are still learning how to process and label their feelings. A younger child may have feelings and/or worries, but they are unable to express what that feeling is and why. Use emoji’s to help your child communicate their feelings.
4. Relate and Lead by Example. Relate to your child’s feelings. Explain to your child that it is ok to be sad, angry, worried, etc. This is a great time to share with your child that when you are emotional, it makes you feel better to talk about it with someone.
5. Don’t fixate on the negative. Kids pick up on your emotions. Limit TV time and avoid programs with graphic detail and discussions.
6. Shift the focus. Talk about the volunteers and heroism. Find positive things to focus on.
7. How can we support a hurting community? Brainstorm ways that you can help. Sending care packages or even coloring inspirational cards are examples of supportive gestures.
8. Reach Out. If you are looking to support a community that is not local to you, search online for organizations that are collecting donations and prepare this outreach of support together.
9. React & Respond. Remind your child that, although what happened is negative and made us sad, we can still respond in a positive way.
10. Pay Attention and Follow up. Keep your ears open to the discussions they are exposed to. “Is there anything on your mind that you would like to talk about?” Stay in tune with your child’s behavior. In addition to following up with your child, communicate with your child’s teacher and other adults in your child’s life.
Richard Peterson, VP of Education at Kiddie Academy says “As we supplement learning in our academies with literature, I would do the same with this topic. There are several books that can assist parents with exposing their children with methods of coping with sadness, scary news, grief, and at times death”.
Here is a list of children’s books that can help kids learn about coping with sad and scary news, death, and grief.
- When Dinosaurs Die by Laura Krasny Brown
- When I feel Sad by Cornelia Maude Spelman
- Tess’s Tree by Jess Brallier
- Lifetime: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie