How to Talk to Your Children About Traumatic Events
Keep it simple. Children’s responses to these traumatic events vary by age and emotional development. Ask them what they know and answer their questions simply. Listen for unspoken questions and fears.
Reassure them. Children can be overwhelmed and become fearful that something will happen to them. They practice lock-down drills in school which can fuel their anxiety. Reassure them that these events are rare and that parents, teachers and community members work hard to keep them safe. Review family safety plans.
Limit media access. Children cannot process the intense visual and audio images on the news. We are living in a 24-hour news world, and we forget that even having the TV on in the background impacts children. Also, limit your conversation with others around your children.
Acknowledge feelings-yours and theirs. Allow children to express their sadness, fear, and anger. If they see you express those feelings reassure them that it is okay to have feelings, cry and be confused.
Use teachable moments. Some parents are uncomfortable about addressing the topic of gays and lesbians with young children. The events in Orlando have brought the subject to the attention of young children whose parents are not always prepared for the discussion. It is a good opportunity to talk to your children about relationships of all kinds and model respect and acceptance of others.
The most important tip is to let your children know they are loved.
Hugs are wonderful for children…… and adults, too.
Pat Wilcke, MFT
Clinical Program Coordinator
Aldersgate offers individual, family and play therapy for children who are struggling with emotional issues related to school, family or peer relationships. For information, please contact 215-657-4545.