Communication is a huge part of relationships. We talk to our kids every day. They are learning from our verbal and non-verbal behaviour, as well as taking in information from everyone else around them.
As parents, it can sometimes be confronting to discuss different issues with our kids. What do we say? How much detail should we go into? Should we let them ask the questions or bring up certain topics ourselves?
Today we are discussing how to talk to kids about scary news. That means things like natural disasters, shootings, burglaries, car accidents, etc. Events that we may, as adults, be emotionally prepared to hear about because we have heard about them before and maybe even had related life experience. But this type of news can be very, very scary to our children!
Natasha Daniels is a child therapist and the author of Anxiety Sucks! A Teen Survival Guide and How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler. She is the creator of AnxiousToddlers.com and the parenting E-Course How to Teach Your Kids to Crush Anxiety. Her work has been featured on various sites including Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and The Mighty.
She is going to share some helpful tips for for talking to kids about scary news…
Why is it important for parents to talk to their kids about scary news?
No matter how hard we try to cocoon our children from the harshness of the world around us, inevitably they are going to be exposed. Their peers will talk. They will catch a snippet on the news. It will be talked about at school. As parents, we can help our kids by processing these events before they hear it from other people.
Are there any points to keep in mind when discussing this topic with kids?
When talking to kids about scary happenings in our world, like natural disasters or violence, it is important to not focus on the gory details. Keep the conversation simple and broad. Children will personalize national tragedies. They will wonder what that means for the safety of their own family or their own town. You can help reassure them by highlighting how they are still safe.
Show your child on a map where the tragedy happened. Although as adults we realize that tragedies can happen anywhere, children are much more egocentric. Distancing the tragedy from the children’s life and their town will help them feel safer in the short term.
Talk about the odds of a news tragedy happening in your community. You do not want to sugarcoat or lie about the risks the world has to offer, but children already magnify all of life’s risks. Help your child put the tragedy into perspective.
There are roughly 7 billion people in the world. Tell them the number of people who were hurt (avoid the word killed) in the tragedy. For example, “That’s 200 people out of 7 billion.” The odds of winning the lottery are 1 out of 175 million – not billion. You have better odds of winning the lottery than being in a tragedy.
What age would you begin these conversations and why?
If your child is old enough to go to school, they are old enough to be exposed to this information. Very young children don’t need to process these events unless you bring it into their awareness – which I would not suggest.
Are there any resources you recommend using to prepare for parent-child discussions?
For more information on this topic you can read:
How do you talk to your kids about scary news? Any helpful analogies, resources or experiences you want to share?