Monday, December 17th, 2012
We decided kind-of last minute to tell our 6-year-old about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. Since the horrific news broke on Friday, my wife and I had been in agreement that we’d do our best to shield Adira from the news. But a few things came together Sunday night to change our minds: a message from the school assuring us that teachers would be available to discuss the tragedy with the kids; my friends’ Facebook; this extremely helpful post from my colleague, Kara Corridan about talking to kids about Sandy Hook; and the dawning realization that Adira is at the age where we simply cannot shield her anymore. She was bound to hear–from a friend with an older sibling, from a snippet of conversation or radio news she may overhear, from a teacher answering another child’s questions.
We decided it was better for her to hear the news from us, and so this morning, while rushing to get dressed and out the door, we told her, hewing closely to the suggested script in Kara’s post. I told her that a bad man went into a school in a place called Connecticut and hurt some children with a gun, and some children and some teachers died. I assured her that her school was safe and that her teachers, principal, and the security guard are making double sure of that.
Her immediate reaction bordered on the comical, and was certainly unexpected. “What do you want me to do about it?” she asked. “I’m not a doctor or anything like that.”
Kind of funny, kind of sad that she immediately got defensive. I felt bad, like I’d presented it all wrong.
But before we could really respond to that, she shifted gears and asked some of the questions we’d expected. She quickly honed in on the shooter, asking what happened to him. When I said that he, too, died, she asked if a teacher killed him or if the police did. That question made me realize she was processing this thoughtfully and ruminating on the details. I told her that the man killed himself with his gun, and reiterated that her school is safe and that she could ask any questions. She soon moved on to other conversations, but picked it up again on the walk to school, asking how many kids and teachers died, focusing on whether it was “most of the school.”
I am sure we will talk more about it later, and I assume there will be discussion at school. The principal said in his message that the school would only discuss the tragedy with younger grades in response to questions (while they would proactively lead discussion with the older kids). All in all, I felt like it was a good start and I was glad we decided to discuss it with Adira.
I am wondering: Did you talk about the Sandy Hook tragedy with your young children? How did the conversations go? More broadly, I am wondering how school drop-off went this morning and what your kids’ schools are doing to address the news with children of different ages?
For more information on how to talk to your kids about tragedy, visit the following on Parents.com:
Image: Mother and her son via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 9th, 2011
September 11 is a painful event that brings up painful memories, even now during the 10th year anniversary. Every parent has a story that may be too stressful to share, but dialogue about September 11 may be appropriate as kids get older and discover more about our nation’s history.
We asked our bloggers and writers to share their personal stories and thoughts on how to discuss this dark moment with kids who may be too young to remember that day.
Advice from Experts
Parents Seek Advice
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GoodyBlog, Health & Safety, News, Your Child
Monday, June 13th, 2011
A few weeks ago, we shared a few tips from Project Recovery Iowa on how parents can talk to kids about natural disasters.
We interviewed Project Recovery Iowa to provide you with more advice on the ways parents can discuss catastrophes and tragic news stories without traumatizing children. Advice includes being sensitive to your children’s reactions and emphasizing the government’s progress to prevent/reduce suffering.
There is also helpful responses based on different age groups (ages 1-5, 6-11, 12-18) and ideas on how to cope with grief.
Read the full interview on how to talk to kids about difficult topics.
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GoodyBlog, Health & Safety, Your Child
Friday, May 27th, 2011
Natural disasters are making the news again, the most recent being an endless string of tornadoes that struck mostly midwestern and southern states in the U.S., including Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri. Increasing TV updates and news photos focusing on the death toll and destruction brings to mind other disturbing images of the Japan tsunami from March.
Parents.com consulted experts from Project Recovery Iowa, a Department of Human Services program funded by FEMA and administered by the state of Iowa. Project Recovery Iowa offers mental health counseling for those affected by natural disasters. The program was started in 2008 to assist people coping with the after effects of severe storms and flooding in Iowa. Amanda Gesme, Children’s Manager at Project Recovery Iowa and licensed mental health counselor, shared advice on how parents can talk to kids about natural disasters.
First, parents should approach the topic of tragic events in a calm, patient, and truthful manner. If your children are aware of current events, it’s ok to ask them first to start a discussion and answer questions, even ones that are repeated over and over. Kids are looking for reassurance when processing information, so be open to talking. Even if you don’t have all the answers, says Gesme, validate what your child tells you. However, make sure to limit exposure to media or any unnecessary details. “Children are smart — even if parents are careful and talk in whispers or behind closed doors, they know that ‘something’ is going on,” explains Gesme. Even children as young as 2 years old are aware when something important is happening.
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GoodyBlog, Health & Safety, News
Monday, May 2nd, 2011
This post is by guest blogger Richard Rende, an associate professor of psychiatry and human Behavior at Brown University.
Our parental instinct is to protect the children, but when world events (such as the news about the capture and death of Osama bin Laden) are so prominent that our children may be affected, encourage them to talk and help them to feel as safe and secure as possible.
As a parent, here are key concepts that I would lean on when having a conversation about major news events, such as the one about Osama bin Laden.
Take the lead in introducing the news, even if you have a young child (3 or 4 years old), since it will be difficult shielding kids from the conversation. Given the high probability that your child will hear you or someone else discuss the news and the high level of emotions being experienced, make some reference to the event or to the idea that many adults are talking about something important. Your child will then know that he can talk to you about it. The one caveat: if you choose not to initiate the conversation, be ready to discuss it if your child brings it up. But this is certainly a judgment call and you are the best judge of your child, so trust your instincts.
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