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8 Tips on How to Talk to Kids About Tragic Events

1. Bring Issues Up

In an effort to protect our children, we often remain silent on tragedies like the Lewiston, Maine in an effort to protect our children from experiencing emotional distress. However, avoiding these issues is not the best option.

Our silence can communicate that we feel uncomfortable about the topic, and it can prevent child(ren) from reaching out to us to start a conversation. As a result, this can cause more harm than good.



2. Ask Questions


It's important to begin your conversation with open-ended questions. For example, you can ask, "I was wondering if you heard about the recent shooting in Maine. By asking a question, you set the tone for a back-and-forth conversation versus giving them your own version of a news report. This format will also allow you to promote critical thinking skills and get a glimpse of what your child(ren) has picked up from their peers. This conversational style of communicating will help you determine if there is any misinformation that you have to clear up.


3. Show Empathy


Ask your child(ren) how they feel about the shooting and share your feelings too! When teachers, parents, and caregivers are vulnerable, children are more likely to open up more about their thoughts and feelings. Kids often have difficulty connecting with adults because we are seen as superheroes in their eyes. It's important for them also to see how we struggle with strong emotions. Be mindful, that it's typical for kids to regress a bit after hearing about a tragedy so don't be surprised if they want to sleep in your bed or engage in an activity, they used years ago to cope with stress.


4. Check in with Your School


It's important to check in with your child's school to see if there is a plan in place for an

emergency. If so, inquire when's the last time it has been practiced, evaluated, and updated. It's also important to ensure that mental health support is in place to help kids and staff who need additional support to process these tragic events.



5. Limit Media Exposure


As you stay on top of the latest news, it's important to set boundaries on the amount of TV and social media you and your child(ren) take in. I recommend having a critical conversation about setting boundaries on the time and duration of your media intake. For example, it's not best to view the news right before bed. It negatively affects sleeping patterns and many times we need a few hours to emotionally process distressing content.




6. Be Age-Appropriate


Children process grief and change differently based on their age. For children under 6, it's

common for them to repeat the same questions numerous times. Be patient and remind yourself that repetition is how younger children ease their minds. For children in middle and high school, use this time to talk about important issues like ethics and morality.




7. Utilize Your Community


Last but not least, remember it takes a village to raise a child. As we have these critical conversations, we can gain support from our neighbors, schools, churches, and the list goes on. We don't have to figure things out alone. I'm always eager to hear about how other parents are processing current events with their kids because I learn so much through my community.



8. Seek Psychoeducational Resources


Seek additional resources and guides to assist in having critical conversations.


If you'd like a free 15-minute consultation with me to explore therapy. Feel free to schedule here:



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Much love,


Jenny Gaston, MS, LPC, NCC




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