Discussing Tragedies and Horrific Events
Over the weekend it was hard to not hear about the horrific news of the events in France. Of course , this can often be confusing to our little (and not so little ones, especially with the graphic images and the accessibility of news in our modern society. It can often be a little difficult making sense of it ourselves, but Michael Grose provides some wonderful tips, which are easily transferrable to other emergency situations, ways for us to help our children understand (as much as they need to) .
Courtesy of Michael Grose – Parenting Ideas
Graphic images have been brought into our living rooms and onto our devices via the media over the last few days, and will continue to do so in the immediate future.
But what about the impact of the event and the subsequent media coverage on children and young people?
As adults we all want our children to live carefree lives and keep them from the pain and even horror of tragedies such as terrorist attacks. In reality we can’t do this.
So what is a parent, teacher, or other caring adult to do when such events fill the airwaves and the consciousness of society?
Here are some ideas:
1. Reassure children that they are safe. The consistency of the images can be frightening for young children who don’t understand the notion of distance and have difficulty distinguishing between reality and fiction. Let them know that while this event is indeed happening it will not affect them directly.
2. Explain what happened. Sounds obvious but it’s important not to simply assume that children and young people understand what’s happened. Be calm and stick the facts, using a map to show older children where it happened.
3. Be available. Let kids know that it is okay to talk about the unpleasant events. Listen to what they think and feel. By listening, you can find out if they have misunderstandings, and you can learn more about the support that they need. You do not need to explain more than they are ready to hear, but be willing to answer their questions.
4. Help children process what they see and hear, particularly through television. Children are good observers but can be poor interpreters of events that are out of their level of understanding.
5. Support children’s concerns for others. They may have genuine concerns for the suffering that will occur and they may need an outlet for those concerns. It is heartwarming to see this empathy in children for the concerns of others.
6. Let them explore feelings beyond fear. Many children may feel sad or even angry with these events so let them express the full range of emotions.
7. Avoid keeping the television on all the time. The visual nature of the media means that images are repeated over and over, which can be both distressing to some and desensitising to others.
8. Be aware of your own actions. Children will take their cues from you and if they see you focusing on it in an unhealthy way then they will focus on it too. Let them know that it is happening but it should not dominate their lives.
Children’s worlds can be affected in ways that we can’t even conceive of so adults need to be both sensitive to children’s needs and mindful of what they say and how they act in front of children.
In difficult times, it is worth remembering what adults and children need most are each other.
For more information Parentline also offer a web counselling service which can often be a great source of information.
Parentline QLD & NT
Phone: 1300 30 1300 (cost of a local call) 8am to 10pm, seven days a week www.parentline.com.au