How do we talk to our kids about violence and disasters?
Please check out the following articles and resources to see if they can help guide you to a plan that works for your family. These are resources through the Wide Open Schools.
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Motherly Magazine Interview with Psychiatrist Dr. Zelinger
Motherly Magazine interviewed Psychiatrist Dr. Zelinger about practical ways to approach children and talk to them about disasters. To help children deal with disasters, we must start by quelling our own anxiety first. “Turn off the TV once you know what’s going on, and don’t obsessively watch or listen to the TV. Then she suggests following the PEARLS of wisdom method.
If the idea of talking about this event with your kids has you frazzled, try using Dr. Zelinger’s ‘PEARLS’ of wisdom method.
P is for Prepare
Before discussing the events at the Capitol with your children, decided what you think they need to know, and plan out how you’re going to explain it at an age-appropriate level. “They don’t need every detail,” says Fred.
E is for Explain
If your child wants to know why everyone keeps talking about this, tell them, but keep it simple and on their level. “I would probably give them an explanation that was only two or three sentences and see if that satisfies them,” says Laurie.
If it seems like your kid isn’t getting what you’re saying, as them to break it down for you. “You cannot assume that what you say is understood, unless you check,” says Fred.
A is for Answer
If your child asks the same question more than once, try to use the same explanation each time you respond. “You’re usually better off using the same answer you used before so the child realizes there is certainty in it,” Fred notes.
R is for Reassure
According to Laurie, one of the best things parents can do for a child who is concerned about external violence is simply reassure them that the grownups are doing their best to keep them safe.
Don’t make guarantees, but remind them that there are more good people in the world than bad.
L is for Listen
“Just let your kids talk,” says Laurie. Take some mental notes while they go on. The things they keep repeating are the issues they’re confused about and that you can clarify later. Be mindful of the areas that they’re avoiding too, because maybe you need to fill in an important detail that they’ve totally missed.
S is for Safeguard
If your child is worried that similar events will take place in your community, take a moment to talk about all the things grownups are doing to prevent that from happening. “Make sure we’re reminding the children of all the safeguards in place to protect them,” says Laurie.
Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee this is going to end peacefully or quickly. But we can guarantee our children that we will always be there to listen to them, and hug them tight.