When tragedy strikes, it is hard enough as adults to deal with our emotions. As the parents to small children, it is easy to wonder how we should talk to our kids about tragedy and how to cope with it. While it might be scary and seem easier to just ignore all the outside stimuli, it is nearly impossible to hide what has happened from our children, and with so many friends and families talking about the most recent events, don’t you want the news to come from you rather than someone else? Establishing a circle of trust and a safe place to share emotions is important for their development now and in the future.
With this in mind, I would like to share part of an email that was forwarded to me from the principal of Park Maitland School, a private school here in Central Florida. She put an eloquent email together to guide parents in how to talk to their kids about the recent tragic events in the United States. In the email, she cites Sharon Carnahan, Ph. D. from Rollins College. The below items are all gold gems shared with permission from Dr. Carnahan. I hope you will read and share with other parents. The only way to let love thrive, to pay it forward if you will, is to share love and education with those who matter most…our children.
How To Talk To Your Kids About Tragedy, Terror and Violence
1: Turn off the TV. Avoid filling your child’s mind with graphic images or details.
2: Slow down a bit… bring peace and quiet to your home. Be a place for healing.
3: Assume your child, whatever age, knows something has happened. Adults everywhere are discussing the tragedy and will be for some time. You can’t hide it. And, don’t you want to be the person your child asks about the tough things? Ask your older children what they already know. Help them separate fantasy and reality.
4: Answer the tough questions. Choose a good time to talk. Find your own answers to your child’s main questions, and be ready. Your child may ask:
Am I safe?
What are you doing to keep me safe?
Why was that killer so mad?
Why did he hurt those people?
How did he get a big gun?
Why did God let this happen?
What does “gay” or LGBTQ mean?
As a parent, know that violence is everywhere and we must work to stop it in families, towns, cities, and countries. We cannot protect our children well enough to avoid it, no matter how secure we are in our gated communities.
As a family, ask: What can we do to help the victims? How can you spread love across your city? These kids did it by making hearts. Maybe you can donate philanthropically to an organization that spreads love. Maybe you can create your own art project, or maybe you can just have a realization within yourself which allows you to live a life of compassion, understanding and acceptance for all those around you.
We will not be defined by these tragedies. We can grow stronger…one person…one child…at a time. Keep going that extra mile for your family. Much love to you and yours.