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Mum and Dad

Talking to children about tragic news events


Claudia Boyd-Barrett

posted in Parenting

With so many calamities in the news recently, from the Las Vegas mass shooting to destructive hurricanes, chances are high your child has picked up on at least one tragic news event.

If you’re wondering how to talk to your child about these incidents, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some resources. These include informational pages on how to speak with your child about news tragedies such as acts of terrorism, and about how children of different ages respond to disasters.

Children as young as 4 years old hear about major crises. Talking to your child in an age-appropriate way about these matters can help him or her process and cope with unsettling news.


Here are some of the AAP’s tips:

Avoid constant media coverage: Don’t expose your kids to constant descriptions of violence and graphic images on TV, the Internet, or on other media as this can be upsetting. For older children, consider taping the news ahead of time so you can evaluate it first, then watch it with them so you can answer questions and provide explanations.

Ask your child what she knows: Chances are she’s heard something about the tragedy from friends, TV or elsewhere. Listen for misunderstandings or frightening rumors, and offer clarification. Allow your child to show his feelings, and offer support and comfort. Let him know it’s OK to be upset.

Ask what questions he has: Let these and the information provided above guide your conversation. Be honest about what happened but explain it in a way your child can understand and without going into graphic detail. Offer reassurance where you can. Let your child know that people such as police, firefighters, and hospitals are working to help victims and keep people safe.

Watch for signs your child isn’t coping well: If your child experiences trouble sleeping, behavior changes, emotional problems or even physical complaints in the aftermath of a tragedy, it could be a sign they are struggling to cope. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you have concerns.

Have you talked to your child about the Las Vegas massacre or another recent tragedy? How did you approach the subject?

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