Parenting comes with its inherent challenges. Many are expected. From teething and potty training to braces and boyfriends, most parents expect to encounter certain hurdles throughout their parenting experience. However, the recent violent and deadly tragedies that have taken center stage around the world and in the media has left many parents at a loss.
To be responsible for explaining a tragedy to a child is challenging. To explain another one is even worse. And to see our children grow up in a world where gun violence, social injustice, racism and terrorism are a regular news occurrence is downright horrifying.
There is no iron-clad answer that will explain what is happening. And the truth is, these things are happening in full view of our children. We can’t cover our ears and wish it away. And we can’t pretend that it won’t impact them emotionally.
So in order to help you feel more in control in a seemingly out-of-control world, here are some strategies to help you know what to do at home.
Turn off your TV. For children under the age of 13, the TV should be kept off to avoid re-traumatizing them. Knowing there has been a tragedy is one thing. But to continuously watch as news stations replay videos and images of blood, bodies and screaming people will not be helpful to a child. Continuous news exposure will increase the likelihood that those same images replay in their minds while they lay in bed at night.
Remember that your emotions are contagious. It’s perfectly normal to have an emotional reaction to the recent public tragedies. Acknowledge your own feelings and find a way to express them with a trusted adult. Shedding a tear while talking with your child is fine. But if your child sees you hysterical, they will assume you can’t handle the situation and they will question their sense of safety.
Ask and listen. Before assuming anything, ask your child what he/she knows. Then listen. Try not to focus on what you will say next. Just listen. Ask their opinion about the events. Engage in an age-appropriate dialogue rather than pressuring yourself to find the perfect explanation.
Find the silver lining. When given the opportunity, children can usually find the good in a situation. During difficult times like these, we can easily forget that there is actually a lot a good in the world. Talk to your child about what we can learn from the recent tragic events. Ask them to tell you 5 reasons they are glad to be alive. And share 5 of your own as well.
If you are concerned that you or your child are developing anxiety due to recent tragic events, don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss our approach to stress management.