How to Explain Tragic Events in the News to Kids

Dear Prairie Families,

It is important to remember that tragedies within our local and national news can be both upsetting and even scary to kids of all ages. In a day and age where information easily spreads across globe in a matter of seconds, it can be nearly impossible to shield your children from such distressing events. The following are some tips on how to know what information to share and how to share it with kids of all ages.   

Kids Under 7

Keep the news at bay – At this age, children do not need to see or hear things that will only scare them. They are most concerned about your safety and may not want to separate from you after hearing such scary news. Little ones tend to respond most strongly to images where other young children are put in peril. Reassure them that both you and they are safe and help them understand what protective measures are in place to keep it that way.

Kids 8 – 12

Consider how your child may react to such news –  While some kids will be able to handle these types of conversations, others who are more sensitive, may not. It is best to avoid viewing repeated images and news that can make these dangers feel closer to home. Kids at this age tend to view events in very black and white terms, proceed with caution when making generalizations. Ask them what information they already know, not only to spark a discussion but to ensure they are not receiving any misinformation.  

Teens

Talk with your teenager – Your child has likely heard information from many different sources.  Discussing what they have heard and how they feel will give you some insight into their developing political and world views. Teens will often feel very passionate about the events unfolding in the world around them, so addressing their concerns without minimizing them is a great way to develop a trusting relationship.

All Kids

Reassure them that they are indeed safe – Although a particular event is likely receiving a lot of press, it is important to help your child understand that this is a very rare occurrence. Kids will look to you for their own cues on how you handle such news.  Although it is encouraged to show your emotions, falling apart is not the best way to model appropriate feelings. It is important that they see that you both care and feel badly about the events but most importantly that you will continue to do everything in your power to keep them safe.

Limit their access to recurring images and news – Repeated viewing of breaking news and strong images can build anxiety and fear in both kids and adults.  

Every child will respond differently when faced with tragic news based on their temperament, age, and past experience with loss. It is important to be watchful for any signs of changes in their behavior that may be indicative of added stress or anxiety.  Although explaining tragic events to your children can be difficult at times, doing so will help to create a stable foundation of trust that will make it easier for them seek you out when they have questions, concerns or fears in the future.  

If you have any questions or would like to discuss, please contact me at 262 752 2662.   

Sincerely, 

Ana Moreno Sig Bw

Ana Moreno
School Counselor