Dads2Dads: Talking to kids about tragedy
Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 8:00 pm
By: By Tom Tozer and Bill Black
Given the recent and seemingly ongoing senseless acts of violence in our society, your child may ask you why people want to hurt other people, especially people they don’t even know.
The tragedies in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., come to mind, as well as events on college campuses in our nation and the more recent Boston Marathon bombings. As dads, we’re supposed to have some answers. We’re expected to find some reason in unreasonableness, to understand the unfathomable, to provide a sense of safety and well-being for our family. Sometimes, however, we’re just as perplexed as our children.
We have all been horrified by recent tragic events of violence. We can’t help but wonder why bad things happen to innocent adults and children and what to do about it? What do we tell our children? How do we explain the unexplainable, and how do we keep them from living in fear?
As we struggle to make sense of random acts of violence, it is difficult for us to explain it to our children. But as dads, we are called upon to make sense of the senseless. So we must try.
The following are suggestions to help you help your children deal with tragedy.
• Try to be calm and factual. You need to be an example of steadiness.
• Minimize exposure to the news. Tragedy breeds coverage that seems never-ending. A constant focus on the event keeps it ever-present in children’s minds and may magnify their confusion and fears.
• Answer your child’s questions in a truthful manner that is appropriate to his or her age.
• Give your child a chance to talk about the event. Raise the issue but don’t dwell on it. Children often seem to recover fairly quickly from tragic news. But they will want to talk about it at some point. Be available.
• Observe your child. Watch for signs of stress, unusual actions, mood swings or anxiety, interrupted sleep or eating patterns, or an intense fixation on something negative. Make sure your child is OK.
• Acknowledge and respect your child’s feelings.
• Reassure your child about his or her personal safety.
• Create activities for the family to do together.
• Talk about ways your family can help promote kindness and good works at work, school and in your community.
It is important to talk about events that make a difference in our lives. They affect all of us. Find a good time and environment when your children can ask questions. Discuss any misperceptions that they may have. Help them think about any conclusions they may have drawn too quickly or judgments they may have hastily made. Reassure your child of his or her personal safety through words and a hug. You won’t be able to answer all the questions, but you will have opened a dialogue wrapped in love and reassurance. A helpful resource is the Mayo Clinic’s suggestions for helping children cope with tragic events — http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/helping-children-cope/MY02332
For more information, contact Tom Tozer of Nashville and Bill Black of Murfreesboro at Dads2Dads@comcast.net or visit www.dads2dads.wordpress.com.
Published in The Messenger 4.18.13