Discussing Tragic Events with Children

This post is dedicated to students, families and teachers of Woodmore Elementary School that have been impacted by the tragic events of November 21, 2016. 

1892953By Jayne Griffin
Director of Education

As tragic events occur throughout our city, nation, and world, children are often left feeling scared, confused, and fearful of the world around them. Children are usually very aware of these tragedies as they hear about it on TV, see it on the Internet, and hear it mentioned in conversations around them. Therefore, we must learn how to best communicate the facts of the tragedy and help children deal effectively with the event.

Helping children cope with tragedy is a difficult, yet vital aspect of parenting. Even 3 and 4-year olds know when something is wrong just from the look on a caregiver’s face and his/her tone of voice. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips to help children grow through these troubling times.

  • Communicate to them that they are safe. Children may see images on television that frighten them, so they need to be reassured that they are being cared for.
  • Gain an understanding of the child’s feeling about the event. Encourage children to talk about their fears so that you can address the fear specifically and reassure them.
  • Limit media coverage of the event as best as possible. Children should not watch footage of the event alone and should not see the same traumatic scenes repeatedly.
  • Help them understand the significance of the event by giving them as many facts as they can understand. This discussion might include using maps to show the location of the event in relationship to where the child lives.
  • Give children an opportunity to respond in some way to the event. Helplessness only adds to feeling frightened. When children and adults take action, they gain a sense of control and well being. Hamilton County Schools has partnered with the United Way and the Community Fund of Greater Chattanooga to create a fund for the families affected by the fatal school bus crash on Monday. Click here to make a donation. For more ways to help, visit the United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s Facebook page.

First Things First has also compiled a list of resources for discussing tragedy with children. For more information, click here.

One response

  1. Thank You, Dr. Griffin, for Your Love of Children & A Wonderful Article!

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