With the recent tragedies, it can be difficult addressing them with your children. They are hearing about them on the news and around their friends, and it can certainly be overwhelming. That’s why it is really important to open the door to communication. We talked with Debbie Spencer, child life coordinator at Florida Hospital, about the best ways to handle communicating about tragedies. As a child-development expert, she works with children on a daily basis.
“It’s important to have open and honest communication with kids. We need to give them the truth. But keep in mind, you have to balance it out by not saying too much. One of the most effective tools is to listen. Children sometimes need just a basic concrete answer and don't need all the details. Then they can get back to their routine. What they are most concerned about is how will this affect them. Does this have any implication in their daily life? Once they are reassured, they can go about their daily lives.”
“Yes, 100 percent. They don’t always need all the details, they just need to know they are safe. Focus on the love our community is sharing and don’t get involved in the media hype or the hate or the racism, but instead really focusing on the good things that people are doing can build resiliency and character in their child as they are growing. Even in bad times, good things can happen. For people of faith, God is here and he is still doing great things and trying to make this better. Even though it is scary and sad there are still people out there doing good.
“It’s our job to open up the conversation and give them the opportunity to talk about it. They might not want to talk about it at first they might come back to it at a completely random time. It might be a week from now. Let them know their parents or loved ones are safe to talk to and available if they have questions. Some children may want to be involved in support efforts by doing things like taking water and cookies to those waiting in line to donate blood. Maybe they want to write a letter or help support in some way. It’s a good way to instill good values and morals and show again that we are here to help each other.”
“Kids are going to express their emotions and fears in different ways. Younger kids might not have the language skills to identify ways to express it. They may have sleeping issues or eating habits or regressive behaviors like sucking their thumb again that maybe you haven’t seen in awhile. And it’s normal for that to happen for a little bit of time."
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