While the intuitive response of many parents to tragic and frightening news events is to shelter their children, experts warn against this approach, Time reports. “Don’t delay telling your children,” says Harold Koplewicz, President of the Child Mind Institute. “It’s very likely that your child will hear about what happened, and it’s best that it comes from you so that you are able to answer any questions, convey the facts, and set the emotional tone.” Establish what they already know, advises Koplewicz, and then calmly answer any questions they have, talking through the events.
Modify your approach according to their age, of course. Under-fives is the only age-group where some discretion is recommended, because of the confusion between facts and fears. Limit their exposure to the news and be mindful what you say around them — they only need the details they ask for.
Kids aged 6-11 can be reassured by facts, says psychologist Koplewicz. You don’t need to delve too deep into details, but answer their questions and focus on their wellbeing. “Then let your children know they are safe and loved,” advises psychologist Paul Coleman. Remind them, with some degree of honesty, that such attacks are rare and that the “bad guys” have been caught.
Middle-school kids see things in terms of good guys and bad guys and still need to process the information in the safe environment of conversation with a parent. This can be even more important than being able to answer all their questions, and it’s fine to open the conversation and ask them what they know. Encourage them to talk but don’t be put off if their reaction is to want a little time alone, or even to seem to be blase at first. If appropriate, take the opportunity to review any safety procedures you have in place with them.
While teenagers might say they don’t want to talk, high schoolers are most likely to be getting a lot of information from social media and their friends, and it’s worth getting into more detail with them. Sometimes this is most easily done over a shared activity, to lessen the intensity of the conversation. At this age, telling them they will never be affected by a terrorist attack won’t be believed, so speak to them in terms of probabilities.
The article also addresses what to do if they remain afraid after your reassurances.
Read the full story at Time.