Talking with your children after a tragedy

Recent events and news coverage may leave you wondering how to talk with your children after a tragedy. Here are some tips that parents I work with have found useful:

  1.  Children will imitate us.  If we model strength and do not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by our own anxious or fearful emotions then our children will benefit. By the same token we must be honest with our feelings.  If we are sad, we need to say: “When I see a hurt child, I feel sad inside.  I know their mommy or daddy feels sad too.  I am glad there are lots of helpers who look out for children just like them and I can be a helper too.”
  2. Talk about all of the community helpers who keep us safe.   (firemen, policeman, nurses and doctors…)  Ask:  Do you know any other helpers?  Say: “Aren’t we lucky to have so many helpers.”
  3. Make it a Family Project to be a helper and lend a hand to those in distress.
  4. Turn off the television or radio.  Limit your child’s media exposure to tragedies as they can create excessive fear and anxiety.
  5. Give age appropriate facts about the event.
  6. LISTEN. Remember the same letters in the word listen are contained in the word silent.  Listen more.  Talk less.  Show your children the ministry of your presence.
  7. Keep a balance of “nurture” and “structure” in your home.  Children are most secure when they know what to expect.  Stick to your morning, mealtime and bedtime routines especially during turbulent times.
  8. Stay close. Hugs, kisses and a warm snuggle provide the comfort and love children need in stressful times.

By Joan Schenker, Parent Educator Coordinator, Anchorpoint Counseling Ministry.  Anchorpoint Counseling Ministry, now celebrating 50 years of service to the Northern Pittsburgh area, provides professional counseling, support group therapy,  parent education, parent coaching, and tutoring for individuals and families.  We accept most major medical insurance and also have an affordable sliding scale for the uninsured or underinsured. More information is available at