Parenting Tips on How to Talk to Kids About Tragic Events
With young children nowadays becoming more and more tech savvy it has become increasingly easy for them to access all sorts of information- including news of tragic events which they may not fully understand and which may just disturb and worry them. Natural calamities such as earthquakes, tsunamis, fires and volcanic eruptions though scary are a reality and have great impact on a lot of our lives. Even more so are terror attacks which have rapidly increased in their number and now are even targeting small school going children.
We cannot shelter our kids from reality, and in fact by having a frank conversation with them about such incidents we are giving them a better understanding of the world and hence making them better prepared to face such things if at all in the future.
So while having this conversation may not be easy, it’s important. Here are some tips which you can use:
1. Talk frankly
Be open and honest with them. There’s no point of even talking to them about it if you want to be evasive. Talk to them about the different threats - some man-made and some natural and make sure they understand its implications. You can even make it a teaching moment.
2. Reassure them
While you cannot assure them that these things may not ever happen to them, you can assure them of your protection. Tell them about the relatives and resources available in case of an emergency, and most important assure them of your presence. That you will be there with them and you’ll face whatever comes together.
3. Make them aware
Prepare what you want to talk about and relate it to the current events – but be sure to not give too much unnecessary gory details. You want to have this conversation with them to make sure they’re aware and that they don’t take their safety lightly, but not to unnecessarily scare them. Children are likely to read the tone and urgency of your voice more than anything so be calm.
4. Make sure to tell them it’s no one’s fault
Children’s understanding of morals and religion can be very different from ours, and they may understand suffering through these incidents as some sort of God given punishment. Make sure to root every tragedy to its beginnings – so that they understand where the blame lies and where it doesn’t.
5. Make them participate in relief activities
A very good way to make them aware of such calamities and teach them empathy at the same time is to make them participate in relief funds or collection. The participation can be even picking out old clothes to send to the emergency shelter or buying food for the survivors or sending out a donation cheque. When they see that people help people, they will automatically feel less helpless and hopeless about such situations. Even while watching news together, make sure they see the people who are helping, like volunteers or firemen.
Approach them with honesty and calmness and make sure they understand that the aftermath of the tragedy is not the end of the world and that there are far more survivors than anything else in the world. Instill in them knowledge, but not fear.
(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist, reader and lover of Red Velvets.)