How to Talk to your Child after a Tragedy Occurs

How to Talk to your Child after a Tragedy Occurs

By: Alexandra de Leon Date: May 25th, 2022

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents, teachers, child care providers, and others who work closely with children to filter information about the event and present it in a way that their child can understand, adjust to and cope with.

Pre-school-aged children:

  • Do not bring the incident up, unless your child brings up
  • Reassure them they are safe
  • Do not watch the news in front of young children

Elementary school aged children (5-12):

  • Appropriate to bring up tragic incident(s) and say:

“You know this terrible thing happened, where some kids/people were hurt/killed by somebody.”

  • Gauge your child’s reaction to see if they want to discuss any further
  • Reassure them that they are safe. Let them know that you, their teachers, and their school are doing everything they can to keep them safe; something like this won’t happen to them
  • Acknowledge you’re not sure why things like this happen. Let them know you do everything to protect them at home and in this world

Middle School children & High School teens (12-17):

  • Start by asking your child what they’ve heard about an incident, their reactions, and feelings about what occurred (try to gauge what your child is feeling and if they want to talk more about it)
  • Reassure them that they are safe. Let them know that you, their teachers, and their school are doing everything they can to keep them safe so that something like this won’t happen to them
  • Acknowledge you’re not sure why things like this happen. Let them know you do everything to protect them at home and in this world
  • Let them know about the firearm laws in WA State being more strict that most other states to try to prevent firearms getting in the hands of those who want to harm themselves or other
  • Do not push information on them, check-in with your child to see how they are doing in the days to come

Resources:

For more on the Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program.

FIPRP Statement on Recent Gun Violence:

Every death is an equal tragedy worthy of public attention. Every day in the United States, over 300 individuals are injured or killed by firearms. Media response to some shooting incidents but not others implies that we believe that some deaths are more deserving of acknowledgement. The incidents that receive media attention are not random and are socially patterned, reflecting a preference for non-oppressed communities. By responding to, and thus amplifying, incidents that are already receiving media attention, we would be reinforcing a hierarchy that places value on some lives but not others. For these reasons, FIPRP as a group does not respond publicly via press release, social media, or other official statements following every shooting, including those receiving widespread media attention. This includes international, national, and local incidents.

(Updated July 2021)

 

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