One of the hardest things to discuss with our children is a tragic event, especially when it is played repeatedly on the news. They may feel sad, frightened or even angered. And they may not know how to express what they are feeling in a conversation.
To help you navigate these difficult conversations, here are some helpful things to keep in mind:
1. When your children ask you about a tragic event, always find out first what they already know. Otherwise, you may share more details than they need or are equipped to understand.
2. Next, find out what their concerns are. Are they worried about their safety? Have they heard rumors about a tragic event that may not even be true? Then, answer their concerns at their level, using words that are familiar to them.
3. Remind your children how much God loves them, and that He is always with them, no matter what happens. Praying with them can be comforting and help them remember to always bring their cares before God.
4. For most children, the biggest question is often “Why did this happen?” It is okay to tell them that even adults don’t always understand the reasons that bad things like this happen.
5. To keep your children from being overwhelmed by the tragedy, limit their exposure to media coverage in your home. Try to keep up with events privately, on your phone or computer, and allow your children to listen to or watch something soothing.
6. For young children, remember that they do not need to know all of the details of the tragic event. If they have heard things that upset them, you can lead them to a point of safety and hope by saying something simple like: “Something bad did happen, but it is over now, and you are safe with me.”
7. With older children and teens, check in with them as the story develops, and monitor what they are hearing at school from other children. Tragic stories sometimes get blown out of proportion. Make sure they know it is okay to ask questions and discuss their feelings if this event has stirred up emotions in them.
Finally, be sure to address your own feelings surrounding the tragedy. If you are highly anxious, your children will feel this, and they will be anxious too. You want your children to feel they are secure in their home, and that they can rely on you and the Lord to keep them safe.
If you have specific questions or concerns, contact us at Bethel Bible Village, and we’ll be happy to help.
† Thanks to our in-house team of experts who contributed information for this blog:
- Robin Moss, LCSW (Bethel Director of Therapeutic Programs)
- Danielle Miller, MSW (Bethel Social Worker)
- Shannon Hartin, MSW (Social worker)
- Heidi Houghton, MSW (Social Worker)