Talking to Children About Frightening News Events Is a Necessary But Delicate Act
The terrorist act in Charleston, South Carolina that took the lives of nine African-American churchgoers is just the latest in a series of national events that children hear about and worry about. Parents and caretakers are often faced with a difficult decision. When is it appropriate to talk to kids about scary world events? And how does one conduct the conversation?
That task may be even more difficult for those directly affected by a traumatic event. Grief, anger, and fear are normal responses to trauma and may be widespread in a community devastated by the senseless loss of life.
“If your child has heard about a scary terrorist act then it is necessary to talk to your child about it,” says psychologist Dr. Paul Coleman, trauma expert and author of ‘Finding Peace When Your Heart Is in Pieces.’ “Younger children may simply need reassurance that they are safe and that the adults are protecting them. Older children will be more inquisitive and pat answers will not be enough.”
Since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, home-grown terrorist acts such as school shootings and even violent protests such as what happened in Baltimore earlier this year, more and more children view the world as a scary place.
“The bottom line,” says Dr. Coleman, “is don’t automatically assume your children are doing just fine simply because they haven’t mentioned the topic. As questions. Search for hidden concerns a child might have. For example, after the Charleston church shooting children may secretly worry about attending church. Look for signs of of inadequate coping such as a decline in school grades or nightmares. Don’t quickly shut down conversations with a ”don’t worry about it“ attitude. Keep children to a routine and spend more time with them in the aftermath of some horrific event.”
When terror strikes, a reassuring parent who takes the time to listen to a child’s worries can alleviate those fears. “But don’t let it be a one-time conversation,” Coleman advises. “Checking in on how the child is feeling days and weeks after the event can yield important information, too.”
For more information, contact Dr. Coleman at www.FindingPeaceInYourHeart.com
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