24 May 2017

Talking With Children About Disaster

Tips for talking to kids about scary news

Sometimes the news is just heartbreaking: senseless violence, deliberate cruelty, lives lost, families devastated…

For families directly affected by a tragedy, finding ways to move forward takes enormous strength and courage. But even those not directly affected can have their sense of safety and their faith in a just world deeply shaken by tragic news events.

A plane crash, a terrorist attack, an accident, an epidemic, or a natural disaster… Events that cause widespread suffering leave us with the aching question, “How could such a thing happen?!”, and they make us want to hold our children tighter.

When we adults feel baffled, frightened, and gut-churningly sad about tragic news events, how can we make sense of them for our children?

How children understand death at different ages

Our explanations need to match our children’s developmental level. Children understand death in different ways at different ages. Three- and four-year olds see death as temporary and not personally relevant. Young grade school children understand that death is permanent but don’t believe they will die. They may find symbols of death frightening. Around age nine, children grasp that they too will die someday. Some respond by being extra cautious, while others become daredevils. Teens are capable of abstract reasoning and may enjoy philosophical discussions about life and death, good and evil, but if tragedy strikes too close to home, they may revert to more concrete ways of thinking.

Talking with children about disaster

Here are some things you may want to keep in mind when talking to your child about tragic news events:

Article source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/growing-friendships/201212/talking-children-about-disaster

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