Can we shelter children from trauma caused by natural disaster, war, terrorism and other difficult events? Not likely. Even favorite cartoons may be interrupted with “breaking news” and disturbing images. So, while it is helpful to monitor your child’s media exposure during times of conflict, it is also important to encourage your child to share ideas so that you, as a parent, can respond.
How can you know your child’s level of understanding and fears in order to offer assurances of safety, no matter his or her age? Here are some practical suggestions to help parents communicate with children about current events, crises and traumatic events.
Young Children (Preschool-Elementary)
• Monitor TV exposure: Replayed violent images make events closer to home than they really are. Very young children do not yet have the ability to separate facts from fantasies.
• Use art to make statements about feelings: Having a young child draw what scares them rather than explain can be much easier for them to express.
• Listen to their feelings: Children respond best to open forums, while lectures and avoidance can create a sense of danger.
• Correct misinformation: Children interpret things in ways adults would never imagine. Help clarify circumstances to dissolve lingering worries with your child.
Adolescents and Teenagers (Jr. High, High School)
• Get your news with the children: This allows them to openly express their opinions comfortably and lets you know where they stand on the issue.
• Don’t express your opinions in absolutes: At this age children are learning to think critically. Discuss facts first, then open the floor to opinion and ideology.
• Listen to your older children: It’s important for them to know that their thoughts, opinions and fears are recognized.
• Support action: When older children cope by taking action in difficult times, support their willingness to tune in with their feelings.