As parents, we would love to protect our beautiful and innocent children from anything negative. Unfortunately, this is not realistic. Children’s lives are impacted by trauma on a regular basis. We were reminded of this reality by the horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT. It is often during such tragedies that we recall our priorities in life and remember how important our loved ones are, particularly our children.
The question is: How do we discuss these events with our children? Or even, do we discuss these events with children?
Parents often ponder if they should wait for their children to bring up the topic. There are problems with this approach. Children may believe that you don’t know about it, and they may not want to upset you, so they keep their thoughts, feelings and questions to themselves. Or they may assume that the event is so horrible that you can’t even discuss it.
As parents approach the tough topics and have the challenging conversations with their children, they also let their children know (at any age) that “I will be willing to talk to you about anything.”
TIPS for Parents in Taking with their Children (APA):
- Have the conversation. It is OK if when discussing a tragedy like Newtown that you shed tears. It is OK to acknowledge your feelings with your children. They see you are human. They also get a chance to see that even though upset, you can pull yourself together and continue on. As parents, we have heard it before: We are role models and lead by example.
- Think about what you want to say. It’s OK to practice in your head, to a mirror, with a spouse, or with a close friend or relative. Talking to your children still be difficult, but at least you won’t have to think about it off the top of your head.
- Find a quiet moment. Perhaps this is after dinner or before bed. No disruptions. This is time and place where your children are the center of your attention and minimize distractions.
- Find out what they know. For example, there was a shooting at an elementary school in a small town in Connecticut. Ask them what have you heard about this? And then listen. Listen. Listen.
- Tell the truth.Lay out the facts at a level they can understand. You do not need to give graphic details.
- For young children, you may need to have the conversation about what death means (no longer feel anything, not hungry, thirsty, scared, or hurting; we will never see them again, but can hold their memories in our hearts and heads).
- Say, “I don’t know.” Sometimes the answer to the question is I don’t know. Why did the shooting happen? I don’t know fits.
Above all, reassure, reassure, reassure. At the end of the conversation, reassure your children that you will do everything you know how to do to keep them safe and to watch out for them. Reassure them that you will be available to answer any questions or talk about this topic again in the future. Reassure them that they are loved.
A.C.T. will provide free resource information for individuals and families to help promote education. For more information, please contact Dr. Drecun at Dr.Drecun@a4ct.com or (858) 792-3541. You may also visit us online at www.a4ct.com. ACT serves the Del Mar 92014 and Rancho Santa Fe 92067 area.