Helping Children Cope with Tragedy


When tragic events occur, many parents and caregivers struggle with how much they should share with their children. While it’s impossible to shield our kids from the horrific reports of the past few days, we also want to avoid sharing unnecessary information that may further alarm or upset them.  Parents as Teachers has specific advice for parents who are wondering how to address these issues with their children.

Media Exposure

Turn off the television and radio when young children are around. Continually witnessing unrest can be very unsettling for them. The American Academy of Pediatrics says children as young as four-years-old will likely hear about major crisis events. The AAP says it’s best they hear about it from a parent or caregiver, as opposed to another child or in the media. In general, it’s best to share basic and concrete information with young children and avoid graphic or unnecessary details about tragic circumstances. Children aren’t little adults. Answer questions in an age-appropriate way and with only a few details. They should be in an environment that fits their developmental needs.

Keep a Routine and Remain Calm

Children thrive on routine. Try to keep regular mealtimes and bedtime. Spend quiet time reading each night to create calm. What children need to hear most is that the adults around them will take care of them and protect them. It is appropriate for children to see adults showing emotion, but it frightens them when their parents lose control. If you feel emotional, try to remove yourself briefly until you can calm down.

Take Care of Yourself

Take care of yourself and address your own needs. This allows you to take care of your child.  Do not be afraid to seek help for yourself or your child if reactions or coping become difficult to manage. These are unusual circumstances. It is normal not to have all the answers.

These are just a few suggestions of how to help children cope with tragedy. Each parent or caregiver must decide what approach is best for their family. Again, Parents as Teachers has resources on our website. You can also call the national center at 314-432-4330.

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