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How to Talk to Your Kids About Tragedy

tragedy comforting 330In the wake of [yet another] senseless tragedy in Texas this past weekend, people ask why God would let something so devastating happen. And parents, I know you struggle with how to answer this question to your kids. Read more for some tips for starting these difficult conversations (from Good Morning America), and for a few helpful coping resources (from Focus On the Family).


goodmorningam 330"Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist and member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, told ABC News it is important for parents to initiate such difficult conversations with their children. "It’s important for parents to start the conversation," Gurwitch told ABC News last month after the Vegas shooting. “As much as we would like to wrap our arms around our children and try to keep anything bad from getting through, it’s unrealistic that we have that ability." In addition, for children old enough to understand what happened, parents should focus on letting them know that they are not in specific danger, Gurwitch added.

Dr. Lee Beers, a pediatrician at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., said a tragedy does not have to be traumatic for children if it is "buffered by good, strong and caring relationships, by the adults around the child." Beers, who spoke to ABC News after the Vegas shooting, also recommended different responses for different ages, and an individual approach for each child.

Preschool age: This is a time when parents have a high level of control over what their children see and hear so it does not need to be brought up unless a child hears about it first. In that case, Beers recommended making sure the child knows the caregiver is there to answer any questions.

Elementary school age: This is an age when parents should preemptively help their child know about the tragedy and share basic details and leave the door open for them to ask questions, Beers said.

Middle and high school age: Beers advised having a more detailed conversation with children. Start by asking questions like, "Have you heard about this?" and "What do you think about this?" to find out what they know and what may be bothering them.

Beers added that parents should limit their children's exposure to potentially frightening images and videos that may emerge, especially on social media, in the aftermath of a mass shooting.

"Parents should let their kids know that, ‘I’m here to answer any questions you may have, any worries you have we can discuss,’" she said. "Check in at the end of the day to see what their friends were talking about at school and what they saw on social media so they have an idea of where they’re starting from and how to continue the conversation."

If parents and caregivers notice children are overly worried or having trouble focusing at school or at home, Gurwitch said not to delay in reaching out for help, and to have patience.

"Acknowledge that there may be a little bit of extra help that is needed with homework, care and attention around bedtime, and that’s true for younger children as well as teenagers," she said. "If you don’t know what to do or what to say, there are people you can turn to ask what you can do for your child."

(Excerpt from: Good Morning America)


fotf 330Focus On the Family has provided a few tools to help you answer your child's complex questions about fear and death issues. They suggest you safeguard their minds and hearts, limit their exposure to the news, and be age-appropriate. For more, visit





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