In the midst of a tragedy or disaster, you might feel helpless. I know a recent conversation with my nine year old son about his fear of being persecuted as a Jew in light of the most recent events in Israel drove home just how much our children need us to be there to comfort them.
Children, like many people, may be confused or frightened, and will most likely look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and caregivers can help children cope by establishing a sense of safety and security. As more information becomes available, adults can continue to help children work through their emotions to minimize stress and hopefully, prevent trauma.
Talking to your child about a tragedy can help him/her understand what’s happened, feel safe and begin to cope. If you don’t speak to your child about a tragedy, he might hear about it from someone else. It also might give the sense that what happened is too horrible to talk about, making the event seem even more threatening.
There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to talk to your child about a tragic event. Think about what you want to say and choose an appropriate time such as at bedtime or dinnertime
You might start by asking your child what he or she already knows about the tragedy. What has your child heard in school or seen on TV? Make your child feel comfortable asking questions and discussing what happened. However, don’t force your child to talk.
Listen closely to your child for misinformation, misconceptions and underlying fears. Provide accurate information. Share your own thoughts and remind your child that you’re there for him or her. Also, be sure to explain that the event isn’t his or her fault.
Your child’s age will play a major role in how he or she processes information about a tragedy.
The Staten Island Jewish Community Center offers these 10 tips for talking with children about tragic events and disasters read more »