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5 Tips on Talking to Kids About Scary News

Strategies for talking with your kids about the bad stuff that happens in the world

Your child may have several questions and concerns as she sees images on TV or as he hears his friends talking about the shootings in Overland Park, Ks. When horrific events happen, especially when they are close to home, parents may find themselves awkwardly fielding questions from their kids. How do you explain that scary events do occur while still making your children feel safe?

  • Wait until they're older. Until around age 7, only address the tough stuff if kids bring it up first. They might see it on TV or hear about it at school and then you have to deal with it. But younger children might not be able to handle it well. You need to know your kid, and what they can handle.
  • Keep it black and white.  Younger kids need to be reassured that this isn't happening to them and won't happen to them. Parents may feel like they're lying, since no one can ever be 100% sure of what the future holds, but probability estimates are not something small kids can grasp, and won't comfort them.
  • Ask questions. Don't assume you know how they feel. Instead, get at their understanding of what happened. They might be afraid - or just curious. You have to ascertain that by asking things like 'What did you hear? What do you think?' If they are scared, ask what they're afraid of - don't assume you know. They could be using twisted logic, like they see a building collapse on TV and think it's Mommy's office building. Correct any misconceptions, and then offer assurance.
  • Don't label feelings as wrong. Let them know that their feelings make sense, and that it's ok to feel whatever they're feeling. Never make them feel bad about being scared.
  • Use it as a teaching moment. Talking about bad things can lead to discussions about how to help others, and gives parents an opportunity to model compassion. Talk about donating to a relief organization
Source: Parenting.com