How to talk to your kids about national tragedies (and what you shouldn’t be saying)

natural disasters

With the recent events in Paris, Mali, Syria and even the floods in Chennai, national tragedies are becoming rampant, and their coverage in the news, incessant. It makes sense to have an age appropriate discussion with your child to reassure them about their safety, and to give them some information from your side so that they don’t hear other things from outside that worries them.

indian mom and 6 year old kid - ZenParent

Kids ages < 6

  • Limit exposure to media. Images are powerful and unless the child has the emotional maturity to deal with this, it’s best to avoid it all together. Do not let the TV run all the time on the news channel, where this news is bound to recirculate.
  • If your child has gained awareness from school, or from peers, encourage them to talk about it. If they have questions, answer them in an honest, not too specific manner. Above all, reassure them about their safety.

Kids ages 7-12

  • Explain that the event in question is (likely) an isolated event, that it won’t occur to him/her.
  • Explain that the law enforcement authorities have beefed up security, are supportive of the public and will protect us from other such incidents.
  • Empower your child with participation – to watch out for unattended bags, for instance, and to seek a responsible adult and not touch it. This makes them feel involved and not helpless.

Kids ages > 13

  • Your child is old enough to have an intelligent conversation about what’s going on without being an emotional wreck.
  • Still, be objective, ask them to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings and stick to business without lingering in crowded public places, longer than necessary.
  • If it’s a national calamity situation, you can talk to them to about volunteering to help in relief work. This is an excellent way for youngsters to feel involved and useful. The Chennai floods situation is a great example where the youth uplifted the entire city.

mom explains about natural disaster to her 6 to 13 year old kid - ZenParent

In general –

  • Keep talking – Keep the conversation flowing. Reassure your children at all times about their safeties, and make sure to tell them that these things aren’t commonplace and are isolated incidents. Your child might as well get information from you than anyone else.
  • Talk in a normal tone – Whispering or using a very toned down voice may make things seems scarier than they actually are. Make sure you use a neutral voice, no matter how scared you are. Kids feed off of your emotions.
  • Allow processing time – When violence is involved, it takes kids some time to process things and go back to being normal and unafraid. Be strong and reassuring. Tell them they’re going to be OK.
  • DO NOT let your kids get obsessed with anything and watch graphic images over and over again. If any of your kids have nightmares, talk to them about it and try to shift their focus from whatever is disturbing them.

Raising strong and aware kids is in our hands as parents. Being reassuring whilst giving them the required information on the face of national tragedies is essential to keep them feeling safe and secure in their environments.

Featured Image Source : © Pixabay

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