Marion Bilich, PhD, on When Tragedy Touches Someone Your Child Knows

What to say when tragedy affects someone your child knows.

Question

What do you do when a tragic event affects someone your child knows? My child's teacher has a family member missing and as a result is away from school for a while. What should I tell my child?

    Answer

    How you deal with this will depend on the age of your child. A preschooler may not even question her teacher's absence. If your child does question you about her teacher, you might give a simple explanation like, "She's having a problem at home and will be back in school as soon as she can." Remember that when the teacher finally does return to class, she will provide her own explanation.

    For a child over the age of 6, the teacher's absence is more likely to elicit questions. Explain the situation in words your child can understand. Encourage her to express her feelings -- her sadness, fears, and worries. You might want to help an older child make a card to send to her teacher.

    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.