Dr. Alan Greene on a Child's Reaction to Tragedy

Could a child be uninterested in a traumatic event?

Question

My 8-year-old really doesn't seem interested in traumatic and violent events that are reported in the news. He is normally very imaginative, and full of many questions about everything. Should I let it go and just watch for cues from him or should I approach him to discuss his feelings and concerns?

    Answer

    All kids will react to stressful situations differently. The ones who are likely to feel the worst are those who are sensitive, imaginative and have gone through some trauma of their own in the past. Even if kids in the elementary school age group don't seem to be concerned, you still want to spend as much time with them as possible. Try to maintain routines and limit TV coverage as well at this age.

    A kid who normally asks thousands of questions but asks none about this is probably scared. Sharing the facts with your son as they come out can be reassuring. Asking questions directly about what he's feeling will probably not give you much of an answer, but asking what he's heard at school can open the door for discussion. Asking him who he thinks did this, why he thinks they did it, and what he thinks we should do about it might give you clues about what he's feeling.

    It might help to mention other traumatic historical events such as Pearl Harbor or the Challenger space shuttle or even the War of 1812, when enemies burned down the Capitol and the White House. Even though bad things happen, we move beyond them to a better place than we had been before.

    The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.