Talking To Your Child About Tragedy

When a tragedy occurs, parents are faced with an added challenge; answering tough questions from their children about what happened.

We’ve compiled a few helpful tips to help you navigate this difficult conversation.

1. Be honest with your child when they ask what happened or what is happening.

As parents, we are tempted to try and shield our children from distressing events. While you can simply turn off the news at home, it’s much more difficult to limit your child’s exposure to news outside of the home and shield them from their peers talking about an event. While discussing these subjects may make parents uncomfortable, it will allow you to choose how the child receives this information. If you don’t answer their questions, they may seek answers elsewhere instead.

When talking to your child, do your best to speak in a calm voice, and try to relax, children will notice your body language and if you appear scared, they’ll take that as a signal to be scared as well.

2. Don’t provide more information than what they’ve asked for.

When providing information, you also need to be aware of your child’s developmental stage. One kindergarten-aged child may be able to handle more information than another. You know your child best and will be the best judge of how much information is appropriate to share with them and how to share it.

3. Give them reassurance.

For children of any age, a good strategy is to reassure them that they’re safe and discuss what’s happened in ways that assure they’re safe.

4. Validate their feelings.

Reassure them that their feelings are normal and valid and you are there to help them process these big emotions. If they don’t directly ask you about an event that has been in the media, but you’ve noticed your child acting differently, gently ask them if something is bothering them and let them know that you’re always available to talk.

5. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Having strong emotions surrounding a tragic event is normal for adults too. Make sure you are processing your emotions, and speaking to a family member, friend, or a counsellor at Family Service Regina when you need support or are feeling overwhelmed.